Running a business in Highland Park hasn't always been easy for Rana Redfield, owner of La Tropicana Market on 5200 Monte Vista, but it's always been worth it.
Redfield, 33, has persevered through gang related shootings in the neighborhood and a struggling economy at large since opening the market's doors in 2003, yet through it all has established La Tropicana as a community staple.
"Part of what makes it easy for me to stick it out is the community. I feel like they really value what we do here," she said. "I feel a lot of respect from the folks who come here from the neighborhood, and I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me feel good."
As a business owner, Redfield's shown an uncanny committment both to the neighborhood in which she operates and her employees.
For example, when she could no longer afford to cover the salary of an employee who ran a juice bar inside La Tropicana, she offered that employee an opportunity to start operating their own juice bar within the market.
Redfield is also a familiar face at the Highland Park Skilled Nursing Care and Wellness Center on Monte Vista St., where she'll occassionally stop by to chat with Administrator Myles Andrews about his plans to improve his own facility
Nearly seven years after starting the buiness, Redfield said she believes this is the year that La Tropicana, which until now has been a labor of love, not only becomes profitable, but serves as a catalyst for more local business development on Monte Vista St.
For the second year in a row Redfield is planning a community spring block party outside La Tropicana at the intersection of Monte Vista and Ave. 52. The date is not set in stone yet.
"The block party is going to be a celebration of the community," Redfield said. "I've never felt a a sense of community anywhere else like I do here. I've never felt a bond with my neighbors anywhere else like I do here. It's taken me time to establish that, and I want people to know we're here to stay."
Councilman Ed Reyes is providing some funding from his office to help support the block party, Redfield said, and the owners of Smokin' Mammas, an artisanal deli which operates inside La Tropicana, will also be on hand.
However, Redfield said the overall budget for the party is pretty small, and she's planning to rely mostly on the generosity of her vendors and community volunteers.
She's hoping the latter will come through to provide the entertainment.
"We're looking for any local musicians who would be willing to perform at the party, in exchange for the chance to get some exposure for their music."
Redfield is hoping to use the block party as an opportunity to start building connections with nearby business owners, as well.
She said recently put a lot of work into renovating her location and has had climbing vines planted on La Tropicana's outside walls. Given her experience working with city officials to secure the funding for those kinds of projects, she feels she can be a valuable resource to other local business owners and to the overall effort to establish Monte Vista St. as a thriving business and residential area.
"I know so much now that I didn't know when I first started, stuff that if someone had told me about, I would have been so much better off," she said. "If I can connect with other business owners we can brainstorm. We can share our ideas and experience, and we can work together to find ways to support the community that keeps us around."