La Perla Mexican Delicatessen — an institution for over 63 years in the tumultuous town of Richmond, California — will close up shop sometime before the end of the year. The current store at the corner of Fourth Street and Nevin Avenue in Richmond has seen all sorts of changes in the town since Mary and Heliodoro Ponce opened their truly family business in 1951.
The Ponces, who lived above the store after leaving factory jobs to start selling homemade tortillas, put their family to work in the grocery store, some of their kids starting as early as age 7. John Spradlin, husband of one the youngest Ponce sibling and the current manager of the store told the Contra Costa Times that the shop had been a landmark in a town that changed nearly every decade: "It blossomed in the '60s and '70s, during the turbulent years. The 1980s were dysfunctional with the city trying to decide what to do with the central district because they had abandoned downtown. The zoning changed three or four times since the '60s."
Now, over 60 years after opening, the grocer's oldest customers are in their 80s and 90s — one 92-year-old regular keeps coming back for the fried pork. In recent years, La Perla has made their money catering to large corporate offices and events in industrialized Richmond. Clients like the Richmond Chevron refinery, Kaiser's Richmond Medical Center and the Social Security offices.
In 63 years of business, the store has never been robbed and is completely graffiti-free. They also made some really rad Taco Tuesday T-Shirts which ought to fetch a pretty penny on eBay if all is indeed good in the world. The building is currently for sale and the owners say they'll close up for good before the end of the year or once the building sells — whichever comes first.