“Boyle #1008 1995 Store of the Year Los Angeles District” reads the plaque on a trophy topped with a curvaceous angel. But this trophy doesn’t rest inside a display case, or on the shelf in an executive office. Instead it sits on a dust covered desk along a loading dock of the empty husk of a nearly century old Sears building. A relic of the more recent glory days of the consumer giant.
For nearly 100 years this Art Deco fortress served the citizens of the Boyle Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles as well as thousands, if not millions of US citizens, when it was built in 1927, as it was as one of the mail order fulfillment centers, featuring roller skating employees filling baskets with merchandise to be shipped across the country. But today it sits empty with the exception of a vibrantly painted snack bar that juts out from the otherwise plain Jane beige, oh and the random pigeon or two flying in and out from the variety of broken windows.
Sears was once the place to find whatever you needed, and this location showcased that perfectly, with 1.8 million square feet, it answered the call of mail orders and local shoppers alike, and for decades it served those shoppers and their employees well. In 1973 it became the first Sears to offer sales contracts in Spanish, and articles about this location describe a close knit workforce, and employee-shopper relationship. Over 1,000 employees worked here until 1992 when the mail order portion was shuttered, leaving just the Sears retail store, but last April it finally closed too.
Despite the closure (which was inevitable, as Sears has been in decline for some time now and filed for bankruptcy in 2018) this castle of consumerism won’t be demolished. In 2006 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and will hopefully have a new life sometime soon. After various owners, the current owner purchased the property in 2013, and announced a renovation for a mixed use property, including lofts, retail, dining, and office space, as well as a pool.
Today the building showed some progress of restoration on its north side, while we witnessed a pick up doing donuts in the parking lot. The south side parking lot, home to El Tropical Snack, served as a COVID-19 testing and vaccination site. But until the renovation, only pigeons call this place home.