First it was Safe and Save Market, and now less a month later, it’s Bob’s Sporting Goods. I can easily cite the many reasons why it’s closing, including the fact that May was one of the worst spending months ever across the country. Read this from the (LA Times – American Spend at Weakest Pace in 20 Months.)
But the same time the land it sits on is owned by the Buddhist Temple in West LA. Mike Naoe, the owner of Bob’s said that there’s new management who raised the rents making it impossible for him to continue. Yes, I know custom rods are probably not something you buy many of, but his works are unique. So what’s wrong with this picture?
a) A fishing shop that’s been around for decades – it’s part of the block’s history, fisherman young and old hang out there. Yes, it’s a cool sight to see the boyish nature of older men come out, and it’s great to see it just a few doors from GR. Sometimes, it’s a gathering of a half dozen to a dozen men. Sometimes, it’s around a hot rod car parked in front. I see a lot of grey hair, but also younger folks too. Where else will generations get together on the block? It’s family there for sure. Where will they go? Where will they meet up, or will they at all? There needs to be some type of community support that goes beyond just shopping, to keep certain types of businesses open. This is one of those places that needed it. Fishing is a part of the culture of Asian America, as much as Asian league sports, learning an Asian language, and maybe piano lessons.
b) Naoe is artisan of sorts who’s known for his custom work. His rods are special and the designs are hand crafted. I enjoyed seeing people walk down the street holding a rod during the holidays. That has to be an extra special gift for a fisherman.
c) Buddhist Temple raising his rent too high. This one bugs me. Is the temple low on money? Last I checked every member throws down cash at many times of the year. Each event brings in some money. Aren’t they also part of a international network of temples that prevent them from going out of business? That said, perhaps they just had to do it. I spoke with Naoe for just a bit and he told me, he’s going to work at home, and retail was just too tough these days. It’s not just a shop, it’s a communal location, a gathering place. If it’s really the rent hike that caused the final choice of closure, the Buddhist Temple – fucked up. The idea of building an audience of Asian Americans (and I’ll guess most are Japanese American) which this shop has for decades, should have been considered, especially by the Buddhist Temple who are trying to do the exact same thing.
Finally, congrats to Mike Naoe for keeping the shop going for many years. Sad to see him shut his shop. But that doesn’t mean he’s shut his operation.