L.A. stories of inspiration and success

L.A. stories of inspiration and success

Siblings Linda Mejia (left) and Armando Mejia (center) are co-owners of Village Mart & Deli in the El Sereno neighborhood. Armando's daughter Riana Mejia pictured right.
EWDD provides Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to the Los Angeles Food Policy Council (LAFPC), which spearheads the Healthy Neighborhood Market Network (HNMN). The program assists neighborhood market owners to build the capacity to operate as successful healthy food retailers in underserved communities.

This financial support from the program allowed sibling team Linda and Armando Mejia, co-owners of the Village Mart & Deli, to expand healthy food options in El Sereno.

The Village Mart & Deli is a community hub for El Sereno residents and commuters alike. The store has been a popular stop on Soto Street for more than 30 years, and sister and brother team Linda and Armando Mejia were regular customers before taking over the store in 2018. Buying the deli was a labor of love for the owners, but without prior food business experience, they had to learn on the job with little external support. From the beginning, the owners were committed to serving fresh, high quality food in their deli, so partnering with the HNMN program was a natural fit.

“My family and I have lived in this neighborhood for a long time, and I always drove by this corner thinking ‘this could be something so great!’ I began going into the store and asking if I could do things for them to fix up the store, like paint and put up some shelves. Eventually, the old owner said she was selling and asked if I would buy it. I called my brother Armando right away. I had a vision for this place and I wanted to do this,” Linda said.

Since 2018, LAFPC has worked alongside Linda and Armando to develop plans for building a healthier food option in the neighborhood. The LAFPC helped them gain a better understanding of current store practices, assess store needs, and supported the owners with the skills and infrastructure necessary to feel confident in their business plan and offer healthier options.

In 2021, the team focused on starting El Sereno’s first farm stand. There are very limited food options in the neighborhood, with the nearest grocery stores located up to two miles away. In pursuit of giving the El Sereno neighborhood the same access to fresh, healthy food options available in more affluent neighborhoods, the owners are working with their HNMN business counselor to cultivate relationships with local suppliers and producers.

Once Los Angeles is in a safe position to host larger community events, which are currently limited by COVID-19 health concerns, the owners hope to hire local chefs to perform healthy cooking demonstrations to showcase how to incorporate local, seasonal produce into familiar recipes.

“It’s never been about the money for us, it’s always been about making this place great for the community. We don’t have any farmer’s markets or anything like that in El Sereno. We want to be able to provide our neighborhood with fresh, delicious food,” Armando said.

The Village Market & Deli is located in LA City Council District 14 at 220 El Soto Street.

EWDD’s BusinessSource and WorkSource Centers offer a variety of Business Services, including several Financial Programs and Development Incentives for businesses of all sizes. Learn how EWDD can help.

This story is part of the EWDD UPDATES from the week of April 4, 2022. Read this issue and more.

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