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Altadena Walmart a year later: Some small competitors thrive, others fail

Walmart Effect - 1

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Enedina Arrellano, a cook at Poncitlan Burrito Express in Altadena, makes a to-go order for a customer on Thursday, March 27. The store first opened in 1992 as a convenience store with a meat counter and was called Poncitlan Meat Market.

Walmart Effect - 2

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Poncitlan cook Enedina Arrellano sprinkles chopped onions on two burritos. In the last year, the store owner shifted to focus on being a burrito shop.

Walmart Effect - 3

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

A customer waits for his order at Poncitlan Burrito Express. Since first opening in 1992, major grocery stores Walmart and Super King have moved into Altadena.

Walmart Effect - 6

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Poncitlan cook Enedina Arrellano makes a to-go order for a customer. Owner Irma Leticia Vega stopped selling groceries at the store because she couldn't compete on price. She decided to focus on authentic Mexican food, something Walmart and Super King don't have.

Walmart Effect - 4

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Irma Leticia Vega, owner of Poncitlan Burrito Express, was a middle school teacher before opening the store in 1992 with her husband at the time.

Walmart Effect - 8

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Owner Irma Leticia Vega bought new glass for her storefront. She hopes the new look of the store will draw passersby on Lincoln Avenue.

Walmart Effect - 5

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Mexican pastries are for sale at Poncitlan Burrito Express on Thursday, March 27.

Walmart Effect - 9

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

At least three businesses are gone on Lincoln Avenue. A CD store and hair salon left after a Pasadena publisher bought the building. L.A. County will soon spend more than $200,000 to apply new paint, glass and light fixtures to this building and others.


It's been a year since Walmart opened a market in a working class neighborhood in Altadena. A lot of small business owners were concerned about what low-priced competition would bring. 

KPCC's Wendy Lee began following the story before the walls went up.


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