Last October The Eastsider reported on an East Los Angeles corner store that put more emphasis on healthy and fresh foods instead of salty and fatty snacks as part of a public health campaign to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Writer Edgar Lopez recently paid a visit to Yash La Casa Market to see whether the new strategy is paying off.
By Edgar Lopez
The junk food and beer have been moved to a corner. Fresh produce – some of it grown in a garden plot a few steps away – is now up . Healthy recipes are posted on the walls. Things are certainly different at Yash La Casa Market at the corner of Hammel Street and Hazard Avenue. “It brought a new feeling, new vibe,” said Edgar Marino, a young parent said of the East L.A. store’s heart-smart makeover. “It’s more inviting,”
The store, owned by husband and wife Balvinder and Kulwant Songu, has seen new customers come in thanks to publicity generated by the makeover, which included a brightly colored exterior and new windows that bring in more daylight. Revenue is up 25%. “Business is pretty good,” said Balvinder Songu.
The store is part of a program sponsored by the UCLA-USC Center for Population Health and Heath Disparities, which has also helped organize and finance similar changes at other East L.A. stores. News of the change at Yash La Casa Market has brought in customers from as far away as the San Gabriel Valley.
As part of its greater involvement in the community, Yash La Casa Market now includes a community garden in the back lot, where students from Esteban E. Torres high school help out. The produce that is grown in the garden – including green peas, raspberries and cilantro – is sold in the store.
The store has also broadened its variety of products. The store now even includes an aisle devoted to some popular Indian items – such as basmati rice, Punjabi Roti bread and cardamon seeds – after Yash’s Latino clientele grew more curious about Indian foods, said Kulwant Songu, who is also holding cooking classes and demonstrations.
The store also has a rewards program for customers, Kulwant Songu said. A customer receives a rewards card and gets a stamp for each purchase. When the card has ten, customers get a special gift.
Lopez is a writer at Campus News, the student newspaper of East Los Angeles College.