The air conditioning in Eagle Rock Plaza on Colorado Boulevard provides a cool relief to the 80-degree weather that beats down on Eagle Rock in early November. Like so many malls across Los Angeles, families walk in and out of shops as their conversations echo throughout the building. On the first floor, the smell of seafood permeates the air. Some might find it overbearing, but for Filipinos, it’s the familiar smell of a Seafood City grocery store. Fish, tropical fruit, beauty products and Asian snacks line the isles as lolas — Filipina grandmothers — shop for their families. For many Filipinos, Eagle Rock Plaza feels like a home away from home.
Colorado Boulevard lies north of Occidental College and runs parallel to the 134 Freeway. Unlike York Boulevard to the south or Figueroa Street to the east, Colorado looks more suited to residential life than an urban social scene. The street may be most familiar to Occidental students visiting Eagle Rock Plaza for Target runs or studying at Swork Coffee. A walk down its sidewalk reveals a diverse array of businesses and the people who run them, each with their own story of how Colorado fosters a sense of community.
On the corner of Colorado and Shearin Avenue, soft rock music emanates from the patio of The Oinkster. The bright lights illuminating the restaurant’s arched sign make it feel as though one is about to walk into a 1950s diner. However, its modern interior is less reminiscent of a musical number from “Grease.” On a Wednesday night in early November, young locals order dinner from a menu consisting of sandwiches, fries and malts. “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” plays silently on a TV against the wall.
Michelle Martinez, general manager, said since The Oinkster opened in 2006, the total number of restaurants and bars on Colorado has increased. According to Martinez, the street became more walkable since then as more people began visiting the area.
“It hasn’t just been businesses, there’s been a transformation of a lot of different things in the neighborhood,” Martinez said.
In a city where history is tucked away in between modern city life, Colorado is home to some of Eagle Rock’s most historic buildings. Eagle Rock City Hall, sitting on the corner of Colorado and Maywood Avenue, is a timeless bubble in the middle of an otherwise modern street. It has stood in the same spot since it was built in 1922, a year before Eagle Rock was consolidated into Los Angeles. With the building’s Spanish-influenced architecture still relatively untouched, it now serves as a reminder of Eagle Rock’s brief history as an independent city.
In front of the city hall, young couples walk their dogs down the street, stopping on occasion to stare up at the various restaurant and cafe signs. In true LA fashion, the sidewalk is nowhere near as crowded as the road, where cars zoom by in a near constant state of motion. Slightly west of Eagle Rock City Hall, on the corner of Colorado and Caspar Avenue, a colorful mural of hearts brushes the side of Relentless Brewing and Spirits.
Doris Hess, who owns Relentless with her husband James, said she chose Colorado for their bar because she wanted to open a space that is attractive for younger people looking for local nightlife in Eagle Rock.
“[Eagle Rock] is more of a family town,” Hess said. “I believe it needed a little bit of a wake up.”
Hess said she noticed changes in the atmosphere of Colorado since opening Relentless four months ago. She said Colorado became busier and more lively as more people began walking down the street, especially as nighttime spots began to open.
“It’s becoming more of a nightlife here,” Hess said. “That’s a good thing because it’s bringing more money into the neighborhood.”
Crossing the street on the intersection of Colorado and Caspar Avenue leads to a row of shops decorated with colorful storefronts. Tables down the street radiate the conversations of Angelenos enjoying their afternoon lunches. The trees, still green as if it were summer, provide the sidewalk with some shade that blocks out the Southern California sun.
Across the street from Restless sits Four Cafe, a name already familiar to Occidental students who take late night trips to the Coffee Cart. On a Monday afternoon, the cafe is in the midst of a lunch rush; workers shout out orders over the noise of laughing children and friends catching up. In line waiting to order, people scroll through social media on their phones, sporting baseball caps or yoga attire.
Richard Sanchez, the general manager at Four Cafe, said when the cafe opened in April 2009, its initial purpose was to provide a place where people can enjoy homestyle food that was made with healthy local and organic produce.
“There’s nothing more important, especially in this area, as supporting your local business or your local vendors,” Sanchez said.
The shops get more colorful as one gets closer to the intersection of Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevard. A mural faces the front of a yoga studio and blends with the soft blue facade of Eagle Rock Poke Shack. Inside, the walls are lined with waves and vintage posters.
The poke shop was opened by Jason Novak and his wife Kelly Britton just over a year ago on St. Patrick’s Day 2018. Novak and Britton, who are originally from Chicago, said they chose the shop’s location on Colorado for its family atmosphere and appreciation of mom-and-pop shops over corporate businesses.
“Even before moving here, we really dug the neighborhood,” Novak said. “When we had the opportunity to open something here, we jumped on it.”
Right next to Eagle Rock Poke Shack, past the fresh smell of roses radiating from The Best Flowers, is Swork Coffee. The cafe, which opened in 2001, is filled with people typing away at laptops with their headphones in as the sound of an espresso grinder occasionally breaks the productive atmosphere. Every once in a while, someone stops typing to sip their cold brew or check their phone. It’s a scene not too different for students who prefer studying weekday evenings at the Green Bean Coffee Lounge. In fact, the only major difference might be the super-healthy “Wellness Blends,” packed with protein or vitamins, written in chalk on Swork’s menu. One even has the option of getting hemp milk in their drink.
When walking down Colorado in Eagle Rock, it isn’t obvious that the neighborhood draws people from all across the world. Colorado, like countless streets similar to it around LA, is quiet. Nowhere to be found are hurried crowds descending into subway stations or emerging from skyscraper lobbies. Yet Colorado is a reminder of what makes LA a city like no other. If one is willing to get out of their car, they will find a city rich in history and bound together by community. Sometimes, you just have to walk and look.