A Big Win for Legacy Businesses

FSN

Little Tokyo is known for its concentration of long-standing small businesses that, to this day, provide unique products and services to the local Japanese American community. Even before the pandemic, several of these long-time businesses faced threats of displacement due to rising rents and gentrification. To protect them, and similar businesses in neighboring communities, LTSC’s small business counselors and other small business advocacy groups advocated for a program to aid and protect the legacy small businesses that serve as cornerstones of their communities.

This work finally came to fruition earlier this month, as Los Angeles City Council approved the creation of a Legacy Business Program, making LA the largest city in the country to establish such a program. Incorporating recommendations from LTSC, along with other community stakeholders, the Legacy Business Program will offer financial, technical, and marketing assistance to qualifying businesses.

“We are excited that the City of Los Angeles has established a Legacy Business Program to support our small business community, specifically those that have been impacted by the forces of gentrification,” said Erich Nakano, Executive Director of Little Tokyo Service Center.  “We appreciate that the City incorporated many of the recommendations that we, along with other small business advocates and stakeholders, pushed to ensure that those who are most vulnerable to displacement will benefit from the program.”

With LTSC leading the charge in community organizing and drafting recommendations to the policy, the Legacy Business Program will serve as a valuable tool in combating gentrification and supporting vital businesses so they can remain in their communities.

“We always knew how important small businesses are to the local economy, but the pandemic really showed how critical they are to our neighborhood through the LT Eats program, when they provided meals to low-income seniors who were particularly vulnerable during the first year of the pandemic,” explained An Le, Assistant Director of Community Building and Engagement. “So when we’re advocating for policies, we want to ensure the longevity of small businesses that serve their community members, especially those who are low-income and have limited English and technology proficiency.”

Not only will the Legacy Business Program support the selected businesses and their clientele, An sees it as an opportunity to help other businesses in their neighborhood, both directly and indirectly.

“Through the program, the City will help selected legacy businesses with marketing, so our hope is that other businesses in the neighborhood will benefit from increased foot traffic. In Little Tokyo, we’ve facilitated collaborations between businesses, so if a Little Tokyo business gets selected for the program, we can be more intentional with the collaborations to create a stronger ripple effect,” said An.

Legacy small businesses are woven into the fabric of their communities, preserving their history and shaping their culture. They comfort generations of locals and stakeholders, and welcome tourists and newcomers. In Little Tokyo, they have helped to sustain and mold the identity of the neighborhood.

“Little Tokyo is seen as the cultural lifeline of the Japanese American community, and small businesses play a huge role in maintaining and shaping that culture. The Legacy Business Program will help vital small businesses in Little Tokyo and throughout Los Angeles stay in their neighborhoods and continue serving their communities,” said An.

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