The California Market Center—the biggest apparel showroom complex in the Los Angeles Fashion District—is undergoing a metamorphosis by adding more mammoth exhibition space and consolidating showrooms onto fewer floors.
The CMC’s latest transformation is the second floor of the three-building center, whose first phase was opened in 1963 in an ambitious project undertaken by Harvey and Barney Morse, local manufacturers who owned California Lingerie Inc.
All showrooms and offices on the second floor are being vacated in the next few months as the CMC’s owners convert the area into a vast exhibition hall.
“The CMC is becoming one of the most sought-after destination venues in DTLA [downtown Los Angeles], and we continue to see continued growth in event requests. Many of these requests require more space than we can provide on the 13th floor. The major renovation of the entire second floor will address these needs and provide a more convenient trade show and event space for the building,” the California Market Center’s executives said in an emailed statement.
“Currently, we work with large events such as The Makeup Show, Unique LA, LA Weekly's The Essentials, Coeur trade show, BizBash and many more. These changes will not affect the availability of showroom and office space, which also is in great demand at CMC. Our plan will create more-fluid floor plans throughout the complex.”
Second-floor occupants were informed in December that they would have to move in the next coming months—although no one received a written notice and no exact date was given.
The CMC said it was hoping to have the showrooms relocated before Los Angeles Fashion Market in March and have the service-industry offices moved by April.
The news was a surprise to people such as Barbara Kaplan, who has been in the same second-floor office in the B building for 40 years running Extra Secretary. “This was brought upon us at the end of December,” said Kaplan, whose lease expired on Dec. 31. She now has to be out of her space by March 15, she said.
Currently, Extra Secretary has about 1,000 square feet filled with bulky copy machines, computers, a fax machine and other devices used for her business, which also offers notary services. Shelves of multicolored paper line the walls for flyers and announcements. Extra Secretary also publishes the Green Sheet, a weekly newsletter of classified ads and advertising for the apparel and textile industry.
Kaplan said she is tentatively set to move to the seventh floor, where many of the other second-floor service businesses will be relocated. “I am kind of excited about the move, having a clean and fresh start, especially after being here so many years,” she said, noting that the hall carpeting in her area is faded and the area hasn’t been upgraded in many years.
Next door to Extra Secretary is accountant Ron Cheifer, who also has been in his office for 40 years. He is still uncertain where he will land. “We are living one week at a time,” he noted.
The Bakery Nosh, Tony Shoe and Omid Travel & Tours still don’t know where their new locations will be. And Robert Rojas, owner of the Phonemart, who has been in his current location since 2000 and in the building since 1991, is uncertain where or when he will move. “It seems most of the service people are moving to the seventh floor,” he said.
The building’s second-floor mailroom is one of those services that will have a new spot on the seventh floor.
The move for Zen Dental, owned by Dr. Alessandra Raschkovsky, is more complicated because various building permits and health inspections that take approximately six months are necessary to set up a new location. Right now, she isn’t sure where she will move.
All of the second-floor showrooms that are affected by the CMC’s new plans are in the A building—but currently only five showrooms remain: Stop Staring!, Mary Minser Sales, Alberto Makali, Frank Lyman Design and Creative Concepts/FashionLink Distribution.
The sales reps at Alberto Makali—Maureen O’Connell and Armida Herman—said they will be moving to the B side of the fifth floor. “We know they have to consolidate people,” O’Connell said.
Mary Minser still hasn’t decided where she will be moving—perhaps the A side of the third floor, which recently saw a major consolidation of showrooms from the B side of the third floor to the A side to make way for more exhibition space. “I’m up in the air,” Minser said, noting she has been in her space for eight years and in the building for 20 years.
Robert Friedman, who is the sales rep for Frank Lyman Design, only recently moved to the second floor. Now he is thinking he may move up to the A side of the third floor.
But Peter Jacobson of Creative Concepts/FashionLink Distribution said he is hoping to stay in his large space at the end of one hall until his lease expires in November.
Other showrooms—upon hearing about an imminent move—decided to leave the California Market Center and set up shop in other nearby showroom buildings.
Mystree showroom owners Judy and Jerry Wexler had been in the California Market Center since the late 1970s, when all 13 floors of the CMC were filled primarily with full-time apparel showrooms. With the consolidation of showroom areas, the Wexlers felt it was time to move to a new location.
“Under the circumstances, we felt we needed to be out as soon as possible,” said Judy Wexler, who said she and her husband never got a written notice about vacating their space.
The Wexlers moved to a new space in The New Mart on Jan. 1, even though their CMC lease doesn’t expire until the end of February.
Susan Burnett, who had worked in the California Market Center building for 34 years and had her Susan Burnett Sales showroom on the second floor for 13 years, decided six months ago she was moving when her lease expired on Dec. 31. She also relocated to The New Mart.
Michael Bush LA-Apparel and The M Showroom also moved recently from the CMC’s second floor to The New Mart.
When the showrooms and offices are vacated in the next few months, the second floors of the three 13-story buildings that make up the California Market Center will be nearly empty. The exception is the C building, which houses the fashion design department of Otis College of Art and Design. In July, the school is leaving its 38,000-square-foot space to move to the college’s main campus near Los Angeles International Airport.