How ‘The Fast and the Furious’ Turned a Sleepy LA Convenience Store Into an International Tourist Attraction


In real life, Bob’s not a café, it’s a mini convenience store. If this were New York, we might call it a bodega, but that would imply Bob’s could serve you a bacon, egg, and cheese, which it can’t. Unlike Toretto’s, Bob’s doesn’t have a diner counter and no hot food is served here. Bob’s is the kind of bare bones corner market where, in this author’s personal experience, the cashier rolls her eyes when you tell her you don’t have cash and you have to buy a 33.8-ounce SmartWater with Apple Pay.

“This is the center of the neighborhood,” Oscar Gonzalez, a 57-year-old retired auto mechanic, tells me. Gonzalez is posted up on a dilapidated bench in a small, triangular park across from Bob’s, nursing a Modelo tallboy he purchased at the market. (He drinks here most days until the afternoon, when he takes shade on the church steps across the street.)

Gonzalez has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years and currently rents the house directly next to Bob’s. Long before it was an international tourist attraction, Bob’s was a cornerstone of the predominantly Hispanic American community. “[Bob’s] is the last stop. Your wife calls and she says, ‘Can you bring me milk?’ And you stop here.”

The namesake owner, Bob, was a Korean-American man, according to Gonzalez, and Bob sold the shop eight years ago to another Korean family. Inside, I ask to speak to the owner, and a Korean man who identifies himself simply as John, emerges. “They come from all over the world!” John says of Bob’s customers, before retreating back into the shop’s storage space and declining to answer any more questions.

As if John had manifested her himself, a woman from Germany emerges across the street, photographing Bob’s market with a telephoto lens.

The community around Bob’s is an anomaly. Nestled upon a hilltop in Echo Park, Angelino Heights is known for its iconic collection of 19th century Victorian mansions, many of which have been conferred historical monument status. The vibe is equal parts comforting and spooky. You crest a hill and all of sudden you’re transported into a Everytown, U.S.A., that’s frozen in time and shockingly quiet despite being jammed between the shops and restaurants of Sunset Boulevard to the north and the east and the 110 freeway to the south. 

People don’t come here around the world because they’re architecture buffs, though—they visit Angelino Heights because it’s a popular filming location. The music video for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and the WB series Charmed were shot here, but the most popular attraction, by far, is Bob’s Market.

“Once it was spotted on social media, that’s when it grew and grew,” 23-year-old Echo Park resident Kobe Cea tells me. Cea, Gonzalez’s nephew, named after the Laker great, has lived in the community his entire life, and says that foot traffic to Bob’s increased after the death of Paul Walker. Walker was the main co-star alongside Diesel, and fans of the films held vigil outside of Bob’s after Walker’s untimely passing in late 2013. (In a cruel twist, Walker died when he crashed his Porsche supercar.)

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