Thursday, February 2, 2012

Iconic LA: Flower District

THIS is place that is both overwhelming and enchanting; captivating of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles yet also stands still in time because of its non-renovated facade and its old-school charm. It opens at 3:00 in the morning, is closed for the day by mid-afternoon, and is visited by top executives, event planners, teenagers gearing up for their first date, business men remembering their anniversary at the last minute, and homeless people hoping for the daily turnover that they can sell on the streets. It is the embodiment of chaos with a purpose.

You can tell when you enter the flower district in downtown Los Angeles that you are entering into something distinctly urban; distinctly L.A. In the early 1900s, flower farmers came into the city by horse-drawn wagon to sell their flowers to the produce market downtown. There is something about the area that has not lost that agricultural magnetism – maybe it’s the idea that the simplicity of flowers are still salient enough to our senses that business is booming even in an economy like ours.

Upon approach, the Flower District is not an alluring area. Get off at San Pedro, keep left at the fork and merge onto East 16th, turn back onto San Pedro, turn left on East 8th, and take the 2nd right onto Wall St. First of all, how typical L.A. are those directions? It is almost impossible not to get turned around, especially because many of the streets downtown are one-ways with yielded turns. Once you get off the freeway, the store fronts are shabby and unkempt, and the further into the neighborhood you get, the less English signs you will see, and it can likely be guaranteed that you will not recognize a store in sight. But by the time you turn onto 8th street, your nose is filled with the aroma of fresh flowers. Everywhere.

The shops range from small mom and pop vendors to corporate sized warehouses with thousands of employees. There are splashes of graffiti on the outer walls, and workers out front bargaining with hopeful young sweethearts in search of the perfect bouquet. Banners that promise “The cheapest roses in town” and “The widest selection of sunflowers in Southern California,” all the while homeless men and women are wandering the sidewalks begging for change. Employees run after impatient event planners to place crates upon crates of the latest flower craze into the trunks their glossy Jettas. Free spirits who need a pick me up in the middle of their day saunter out of a shop with a single daisy or a decorative orchid.

I entered the flower district for my first time last week. A young blonde girl
with a long list of specifics about flowers to buy for an event – you would think if I was
noticed at all amidst the commotion it would have been in attempt to rip me off, but
instead I was greeted with remarkable help and friendliness from each individual vendor.
If they knew I could get a flower from someone else for a cheaper price, they would send
me in that direction. And if they knew I could not, they bet me with a smile on their face
that I wasn’t going to find a better offer.

No matter how high tech our country - and our beloved city - gets, there are certain attractions that have not lost their appeal and remain transfixed in time even in the depths of economic crisis. Endless traffic may have replaced horse-drawn wagons, and e-cards may have become a semi-acceptable substitute to the endearing anniversary bouquet, but it is satisfying to know that there is still an area of Los Angeles where people, literally, take their time to stop and smell the roses.
-- Jordan Younger

photo credit: Jordan Younger

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