When Alfonso Ramirez opened a branch of their mini-chain Señor Fish in Little Tokyo, he couldn't have imagined that the surrounding community would become what it is now. What followed was the opening of the Metro Gold Line stop, resurgence of the Arts District, and the reactivation of surrounding streets and storefronts that have all contributed to the revitalization of the neighborhood that had been in a lull.
Perhaps Ramirez has the magic touch -- his stores in Eagle Rock and South Pasadena were at the center of revitalization of the respective neighborhoods. But as neighborhoods in L.A. are constantly being reinvented, Señor Fish Little Tokyo's role as the "bridge to the rest of the community," as Ramirez describes it, may soon be changed into something else entirely.
L.A. Metro's Regional Connector project, currently in the planning stages, will connect the Blue and Expo rail lines to the Gold Line and Union Station. Little Tokyo, with its proximity to Union Station and several rail lines, will become a major transit hub when the proposed station is built at First and Central Avenues.
As luck would have it, It just so happens that this hub will be built precisely on the site where Señor Fish now stands. It's a bittersweet fate for Ramirez -- as the neighborhood he helped grow becomes even larger and a focal point of the downtown revitalization, he won't be able to experience the added benefits this new project will bring. He must vacate the property and move his business elsewhere -- that is if he can find a suitable location. Much of the success of this branch has to do with its synergy with the neighborhood, not to mention the historic building, which in the past was home the iconic punk-era institution, the Atomic Cafe.
In an interesting twist of fate, Metro, which now owns the property, has put the building for sale for a tidy sum -- all of one dollar. So Ramirez will have the chance to save the building itself if he wishes to -- though he would have to pay for its move himself. Will he be able to recreate the success by keeping it in the same building, but at a different location? Only time will tell.
Cornerstone for a New Generation
Senor Fish owner Alfonso Ramirez discusses how his Little Tokyo restaurant became a bridge to the rest of the community.