A few months back I stopped at a Pinata vendor just east of Downtown to buy a giant elephant for a friend who had just gotten a nose job.
I noticed the store was chock full of bulk spices, dried herbs, mexican cookware and more... so I made a mental note for a return visit.
This year my trinket holiday gifts are small jars of mixed spices one can throw on BBQ meats or jazz up other dishes. I went to the store and loaded up on bags of already ground spices, and several big bags of chiles, from dried new mexican to smokey chipoltes... all very affordable as well.
It was a fun expereince, and a bit like visiting Mexico. There was only one employee who spoke English and the store is one of several in a row, all hawking Mexican fare, covered in pinatas, blaring mariachi music while families bought roasted corn and tacos from sidewalk vendors. I bought myself a Mexican coke and stopped at one grill to enjoy two of the best made-to-order asada tacos I've ever enjoyed ($1 each) while watching an old fellow sell parakeets from the back of his truck. Sometimes the simplest things... a freshly grilled taco adorned with homemades salsas washed down with a syruppy soda from the bottle are as epiphanic as the finest restaurants.
I've driven by there before, but had never noticed the sidewalk vendors, so that may be just a weekend thing.
I believe the store's address is 1248 Olympic, just NW of Central Ave. (From W. LA, take the 10 east and just past the 110, exit Central Ave. and turn left). As mentioned, there's a row of 4-5 similar stores bunched together and this one is the 2nd one nearest to Central. I didn't have time to look through the others, but will do if I'm having a lazy day... it's only 10 miles from the 405/10 interchange, but seems a different world.
P.S. A half-block north of these on Olympic is a bulk soft drink wharehouse with some great prices. Not to mention the whole area, though somewhat seedy, is home to all sorts of food wholesalers... would love to hear of other vendors to explore.