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Pompea Smith is out at Hollywood Farmers Market

Pompea

Pompea Smith, who has led the Hollywood Farmers Market since she founded it 21 years ago, was fired Tuesday night. A statement issued by the board of Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles, the nonprofit organization that runs the market and seven others in Los Angeles, reads: “The board of directors has decided that, in the best interests of SEE-LA and the communities it serves, it is time for a change of leadership.”

The 12-member board has appointed Brenda Zamzow-Frazier, a consultant, to serve as interim chief executive until a search for a permanent head is concluded, the statement added. Smith, who is in her early 70s, founded the Hollywood market in 1991 and established SEE-LA in 1994. Renowned for its wide selection of produce and lively street scene, the Hollywood Farmers Market is the largest in Los Angeles, with about 150 vendors.

As its neighborhood gentrified over the last two decades, the Hollywood market’s financial success enabled SEE-LA to subsidize its venues in low-income areas such as Watts and Central Avenue. The tough economy of the last few years challenged this model, however, according to an analysis sent to the board in early March by Essergy Consulting, which added that “SEE-LA may require … a more transformational and inclusive management style.” The document also mentioned the need to attract “a younger, ‘hipper’ crowd” and to make more use of social media.

After leading the Hollywood market to victory last July in a struggle over a street closure with the Los Angeles Film School, Smith was surprised that the board would let her go. “I don’t know why they took this turn,” she said. “They could have given more guidance.” Michael Woo, chair of SEE-LA’s board, declined to elaborate on the reasons for the change, but did say that “it was an extremely difficult decision.”

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-- David Karp

Photo: Pompea Smith. Credit: David Karp.

 
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