Ghost of Consumerism Past: Almost 100 Year Old Abandoned Art Deco Sears of Boyle Heights

“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.

Overall view of the front tower. Red script reading "Sears" is just above the front doors. "Sears" in art deco letters is at the very top of the tower.

Staircase leading up to the doors of the Sears. Red letters reads "Retail Store"

Overall view of the massive pale yellow Sears building.

A wall of breeze blocks sit against planters by the staircase. "Sears" in red script is behind the breeze blocks, attached to the building.

A dust covered desk with a trophy atop it.

Close-up of the plaque on the trophy reading "Boyle #1008 1995 Store of the Year Los Angeles District"

Several stories of warehouse floors with windows and a fire escape.

Close-up of the store sign above the door reading "Retail Store" in red letters.

El Tropical Snack, a colorfully painted snack bar attached to the side of the massive pale yellow building.

Close-up of the tower at the very front of the building, with neon art deco style letters reading "Sears"

A grey pigeon sits atop a fire extinguisher inside.

Close-up of the art deco light fixture.

Customer Pick-Up docking bay.

A COVID-19 testing and vaccination site set up in the parking lot of the Sears.

The tower at the front, peeking through the leaves of a tree. Letters spelling "Sears" is at the top.

Just inside the doors of the Sears, with a smaller staircase going down into the store. Blue letters spell out "Welcome Sears Boyle Heights"

The varying levels of the Boyle Heights Sears. On the first level in red script reads "Sears." An exterior fire escape is attached to the side.

A fire escape leads to the overhang of the customer pick up bay. To the right is an entrance to the store with a brass like sign reading "Retail Store"

Close-up of the boarded up front doors, with small plaques on the edge reading "PULL"

Art deco, almost a temple like style, details above windows.

Detail of elegantly twisted metal to make up a rail for the staircase.

Loading bays near the back of the building. Litter from the closing sale scatters the ground.

Close-up of the details by the front door, along with an empty Coca-Cola bottle.

Looking up at the doors to the retail store. On either side of the doors are art deco style light fixture.

Angled view of the tower, red script reading "Sears" is just above the front doors.

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.

Barragan, Biancca. “Redeveloper of Boyle Heights Sears looking for project partner.” Curbed Los Angeles, 30 November 2018. Accessed 2 June 2021.
Campa, Andrew J. “After Almost a century, landmark Sears store in Boyle Heights will soon close.” Los Angeles Times, 3 April 2021. Accessed 2 June 2021.
Chandler, Jenna. “New renderings unveiled for massive redevelopment of Boyle Heights Sears Complex.” Curbed Los Angeles, 19 October 2017. Accessed 2 June 2021.
Lisicky, Michael. “A 94-Year-Old Sears Store Has Never Given Up On A Los Angeles Neighborhood, But That May Soon Change.” Forbes, 26 September 2020. Accessed 2 June 2021.
Vincent, Roger. “Sears building in Boyle Heights sells to developer for $29 million.” Los Angeles Times, 20 November 2013. Accessed 2 June 2021.

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