A strip of small businesses nestled in northern Glendale appears out of place across from homes with sprawling lawns and mature oak trees.
Kenneth Village used to be a sleepy street with shops that always seemed to be closed for the day.
Now, it is a flourishing spot in the community. While many of the older businesses closed down to be replaced with exciting new offerings, several grew to prosper.
Among those that have thrived is Art’s Meat Market & Deli — a patchwork of produce, fresh meat and refrigerated drinks alongside old romance novels, medical books and Disney party planning tips.
One wonders how a shop like this even came to be the way it is. Owner Marcos Guevara said that although the shop has been there for 16 years and been through three different owners, the idea behind the shop has never changed. The shop has survived thanks to Art’s steadfast customer base. Guevara says he knows 90 percent of his customers by name.
I wouldn’t have believed this had I not experienced it myself. As a lifelong Glendale resident, I felt a connection to the family-owned businesses of Kenneth Village. I’ve frequented Kenneth Village for the past few years, but was still surprised when one of the shop owners remembered me.
When I met with Guevara on the day of our interview, he greeted me with a big smile from behind the counter.
“I’ve seen you here before,” he said. “Caprese panini, right?”
People like him put the “small” in small business owner. He’s friendly, soft spoken and really loves his job. His eyes light up when he talks about the shift he’s seen in Kenneth Village within the past three years he has been the owner, from a “hidden gem” to a place that people want to visit and hang out at.
What caused this shift? I’m left reeling for causes but I don’t know if just one exists. I do know that one cause of the shift is directly across the street.
Yoga-urt opened in 2015 as the first and only organic and vegan frozen yogurt shop in Los Angeles. As the new kid on the block, Yoga-urt quickly proved itself a force to be reckoned with as it quickly became the most popular stop in the Village. PETA wrote about it, vegan YouTubers vlogged about it and celebrity tattoo artist and outspoken vegan Kat Von D visited it.
The shop is modern and colorful. It feels a lot like a hip brunch spot you’d see in an urban center. It’s easy to forget where you actually are.
Founder and owner Melissa Schulman tells me that while the road has had plenty of bumps along the way, the customers make it all worth it.
“I hear people who come here from so far away and are so grateful for it and it really just keeps me going. It’s not just for me anymore. It’s for others,” she said. “If it ended now, it wouldn’t just be me that would be heartbroken. It would be a lot of people. I think that’s how I feel successful — because other people care about it and appreciate it.”
In a sense, Yoga-urt has revitalized Kenneth Village. It has brought youth and color — customers from all over Southern California. Kenneth Village is not Glendale’s hidden gem anymore and I wonder if it ever really was. Yoga-urt and Art’s could not be more different on paper, but they’re more alike than you’d assume.
There are two seams that keep shops like these alive and they’re sewn with the same thread: the drive of the business owners and the support of their community. They hope that everything will work out and that people will choose them over their local Walmart.
A music store, a yoga studio and a florist all once called Kenneth Village home. As I realized this, a sense of guilt quickly set in. I think about the American Express commercial, the one in which families are buying wine, wedding dresses and wrenches from their local small businesses. I wonder what my own role was in the closed shops that once stood here. I wonder if my own community will ever support small businesses in the way they deserve to be supported.
At the end of our conversation, Guevara had one last thought.
“There’s times when you question yourself but you want to believe that eventually everything is gonna make sense,” Guevara said. “And that’s what keeps you going: passion.”