February 2019 Issue
We kick off our Inspiring Stories series with the accomplishments of Katone Scott, a 17-year-old high school senior and lifelong resident of LTSC’s Angelina Apartments affordable housing community.
Overcoming difficult times early in her life, Katone has made the most of LTSC’s array of youth and family programs. Thanks to her positive spirit, perseverance and strong family support, Katone has excelled as a student and leader.
Stories like Katone’s make us proud.
LTSC’s Board of Directors convened last month for an all-day retreat to discuss the future course of our organization.
The new year brings both farewells and new faces. LTSC thanks three departing members who have dedicated years of outstanding service to our Board:
We are also excited to welcome four new members:
Professor Yafen Lo, who teaches child and family studies at Cal State LA, drove away in a 2019 Highlander Hybrid, the grand prize in a raffle contest sponsored by Terasaki Budokan, a project of Little Tokyo Service Center. The winning ticket was sold to her by one of her students, Joyce Song, who was volunteering to raise funds to construct the Little Tokyo gym.
The prize was a donation from Toyota Motor North America. “We really want to thank Tracey and Mark Doi who championed our cause within Toyota and guided us through the process of getting three luxury cars donated. Our raffles raised awareness and much-needed funds for Terasaki Budokan,” said LTSC Executive Director Dean Matsubayashi.
Thousands of tickets were sold by community sports teams and nonprofits who received a share of the ticket sales to support their own fundraising efforts.
In the meantime, both fundraising and construction for Budokan are progressing. Out of the total project cost of $33.8 million, a gap of $2.4 million remains. “We are appealing to the community to help us close the gap before the gym and plaza open in early 2020, about a year from now,” said Alan Kosaka, the project’s capital campaign director.
Click here to support Budokan.
Shoshi’s General Store pop-up; Photo: Jesse Koester of Sunshine Pictures LLC
In recent months, LTSC lent temporary retail space to aspiring entrepreneurs so they could set up shop in Little Tokyo. The project, the Los Angeles Small Bizcubator, is a partnership between LTSC’s Small Business Assistance Program and the Sustainable Little Tokyo community initiative. It provided budding, community-oriented entrepreneurs the chance to gain exposure and valuable experience.
A number of exciting businesses took up temporary residence in Little Tokyo, including: a kitchen ware and catering company (Tenzo), a Japanese art-inspired lifestyle brand (CRFT by Maki), a community empowerment-focused clothing brand (Uprising), a maker of fine ceramic products (Shoshi’s General Store) and a podcast about working in LA’s media and entertainment fields (Hollywood Fish Bowl).
Upon completing their pop-ups, the small business owners reflected on their experiences.
“We had a great experience at the popup. Business-wise it worked out well for us and on a personal level it was great to connect with the Japanese American community in Los Angeles. As a new retail business, it was crucial for us to be able to move into a small physical space as opposed to being strictly online. The experience we had speaking to customers and communicating our vision for the brand was invaluable.”
-Jeffrey Ozawa, co-founder of TENZO
“My pop-up experience was nothing short of amazing. I felt very fortunate and lucky to have Little Tokyo Service Center assist me in my very first pop-up. We gained a ton of knowledge that will definitely help my business in the future…Having the pop-up in Little Tokyo allowed me to personally come full circle. I always talk about urging Japanese-Americans to come back to the city, bring your businesses and commerce back and take part in the rejuvenation of your culture, this was a way for me to walk it like I talk it. My family and I have so much affinity for Little Tokyo and it was an honor to have my pop-up here, I wish my grandmother was here to see it.”
-Darin Maki, founder of CRFT by Maki
“There are so many positives but the biggest realization from this experience is that I love being at a physical space and engaging with new customers/familiar faces/and being part of the community. The traffic to the store was great because it’s in the perfect location. The community was supportive… [Little Tokyo] is my second home! It was the perfect op to do something I am familiar with; with the community I love; and way for me to give back. I felt like I was home for the entirety of the pop-up and didn’t want it to end. Second, I knew it would be great exposure for the brand to reach new customers organically; and show our community online that we are doing more than just a digital platform.”
-Michelle Hanabusa, founder of Uprising
“My experience as a small business owner was incredible. Spending time in Little Tokyo in such a meaningful and integrated way changed not just how I look at the district and the local businesses that populate the area but how I think of small businesses, startups and community in a much broader sense. It was a terrific chance to see the humanity and legacy of a neighborhood in a way that goes invisible to most. I’m doubly thrilled for the chance to share this insight with the listeners of the program…The opportunity was incredibly helpful to me. I feel like we were able to elevate the program in a way that it never could have been elevated otherwise. We always teeter on the edge of journalism and I feel like we finally slipped firmly onto the journalism side of the equation. Having realized a program with greater integrity and ambition than what we had when we started will be instrumental in the 2019 growth we hope to see.”
-Jesse Koester, host of the Hollywood Fishbowl
“I had an overall very good experience. And I think my pop up turned out quite successful both in terms of benefit towards my own business and creating more foot traffic and awareness of the neighborhood… I was able to make new connections and meet people, whom we have talked about working in the future, leading to expansion of my work. I was also able to strengthen relationships with my collaborators, and building relationships is a central part of my work. This, I felt was more important and helpful than the actual sales of the shop, which went well also, but would not have been much profit in the end if I were to run a shop full-time and pay rent. It was a good experience for me too in this aspect; to understand the costs and labor it takes to run a store front… Playing the shakuhachi and making ceramics, I’ve always been aware and a part of the Japanese American community in some way. So I had a personal interest in being more involved with the Little Tokyo Community. And after learning more about the history of the area, I had even more interest in getting involved.”
-Shoshi Watanabe, Ceramicist for Shoshi’s General Store
Through our +LAB program, LTSC strategically incorporates art and creativity into our work to apply creative approaches to achieving our mission.
In this vein, LTSC has enlisted talented Los Angeles writer and visual artist Erica Rawles to work directly with our staff to reimagine our work in the Little Tokyo community. In collaboration with our staff, Erica will develop a series of projects to enhance our impact in Little Tokyo and deepen our connections to the people we serve.
Erica’s writing focuses on the intersection of art, culture and history. Her visual art explores themes of memory. To see her work, please visit Erica’s website at https://ericamrawles.com/.
LTSC staff and others gather for the homeless count.
In January, LTSC assembled volunteers at Casa Heiwa to participate in the Downtown Homeless Count, in partnership with the Downtown Neighborhood Council and organized by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
Over 75 volunteers showed up ready to collect valuable data that will help neighborhoods better allocate services for those who are homeless. A number of LTSC staff members assisted with the effort.
We are grateful for all the volunteers who stayed up past midnight to complete a thorough count. We look forward to seeing how this data will translate into policy changes regarding supportive housing for thousands of homeless individuals all across LA County. For more information you can visit the website https://www.lahsa.org/
Changing Tides pop-up exhibit
In February, Changing Tides, a partnership initiative between a youth/young adult outreach group and LTSC, will present a mental health pop-up exhibit to feature art created by Nikkei artists and inspired by mental health themes, at LTSC’s 341 FSN space. The Changing Tides initiative is dedicated to de-stigmatizing mental health within the Asian American community.
341 FSN is a collaborative and experimental space designed to explore community control and self-determination in Little Tokyo and First Street North. The space is owned and operated by Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC). Changing Tides is a initiative of LTSC committed to de-stigmatizing mental health within the Asian American community.
Admission to the pop-up is free!
Opening Day: Feb. 9 at (refreshments and entertainment will begin at 6 p.m.) Click here for more information about this event.
Crft by Maki pop-up; Photo: Jesse Koester of Sunshine Pictures LLC
Little Tokyo is known for its concentration of small businesses that, to this day, provide unique products and services to the local Japanese American community. To help maintain this community, LTSC helps small businesses build capacity and increase their sustainability with counseling and workshops.
With the support of a grant from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Los Angeles, LTSC has started a unique program called “Los Angeles Small Bizcubator” that is attracting and supporting new, emerging start-up enterprises in Little Tokyo. With this program, LTSC is bringing younger entrepreneurs to Little Tokyo and increasing traffic of social media influencers and younger consumers that will promote Little Tokyo as a must-see neighborhood. Read more here.
LTSC would like to thank LISC Los Angeles for helping us encourage community minded entrepreneurs to join the established and legacy businesses currently in the Little Tokyo neighborhood.
Thank you to all our supporters for your contributions last month!
American Tours International, LLC
Fong Toji Family
Yas and Nancy Gohata
Jean and Karl Kawakami
Gary and June Masada
Rev. George and Kay Matsubayashi
Robert and Teresa Matsushima
Alan and Yvonne Nishio
Stanley and Jane Shimotsu
Nikki Kealalio Sutton
Akemi Arakaki and Takao Suzuki
Edward and Momoyo Wada
Ryoko and Yoshiro Yunouye
In Honor of Vivienne Lee
In Memory of Jeannette Kyoko Sanderson
Emily and Dan Weaver
Laura Blosser and Chris Argyros
CRFT by Maki
Scott Ito and Nan Lee
Sheldon and Naomi Kawahara
Chester and Eileen Kido
Brent Mori and Jessie Kikuchi
Norman and Mardy Maehara
Mike Murase and June Hibino
Michael, Margie and Katherine Odanaka
Grant Sunoo and Emily Maeda
Nikki Kealalio Sutton
Dahni Tsuboi and Pete Manzo
Jayne and Gideon Young Family
Yonsei 18 Families
In Honor of Yvonne and Alan Nishio
In Memory of Tetsuo Murata
Susan and Raymond Dingman
Betty and Olan Teves
In Memory of Monica Quan
In Memory of Denny Sunabe
Cam T. Vo
Dean Matsubayashi and Kim Kawaratani
Colleen Seto-Gee and Douglas Gee
Marsha and Gary Watanabe