Exploring VIP Records and the Cambodian Community One Step at a Time (Literally)

Photo by Brian Addison.

Ever walked down Retro Row and wonder just how it became Retro Row? Or how Cambodia Town came into existence? Or why the VIP Records sign is just so iconic?

These communities and the pieces attached to them are an essential part of the Long Beach fabric but often unrecognized if not outright ignored in larger discussions largely because entrepreneurs and leaders of color tend to be left on the sidelines—and that is precisely what nonprofit We Are The Next (WATN) wants to explore with its Talk the Block.

The series—which kicked off focusing on Retro Row–will now take on VIP Records and Cambodia Town by engaging people on foot with the storied pasts, vibrant present, and possible future of these Long Beach cultural staples.

“Following the 2016 election, we wanted to change the conversation and celebrate the immigrants, first-generation Americans, and other minorities who are making positive impacts in our communities every day,” said Katie Rispoli Keaotamai of WATN, “Without their work, our cities would not be as vibrant. We are indebted to them and their passion for our neighborhoods.”

Taking place Saturday, May 13, visitors will gain opportunities to build personal relationships with some of the most important influencers in our city, including Dary and Sreyrot Chan of Sweet Retreat Donuts and Kelvin Anderson of the World Famous VIP Records.

Beginning at Sweet Retreat Donuts, Dary and Sreyrot will speak about the struggle and beauty of immigration, their Cambodian take on the almighty donut, and how the Eastside neighborhood they reside in influences their own perception of the world.

After Sweet Retreat Donuts, visitors will walk over to VIP Records and meet Kelvin, a man whose life went from a lone, dirt road along the backwoods of Mississippi to the booming, sunny life of Los Angeles, just two days after graduating from high school in the 1970s. From there, he would not only become one of the most well-respected legends that helped form West Coast rap’s firm grip on American culture, but also he would come to create a Long Beach icon that served as a source of inspiration — a record shop, a recording studio and a neutral ground between the Bloods and the Crips.

Tickets to Talk the Block are $15, and are available for purchase at www.wearethenext.org/register.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food to politics to urban transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 12 nominations and an additional win for Best Political Commentary. Born in Big Bear, he has lived in Long Beach since college. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.