LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – 92-year-old Horace Bowers is CEO emeritus of Bowers and Sons Cleaners in South Los Angeles.
Located on Central Avenue, the business has been going strong in the Bowers family since 1950, exemplifying self-sufficiency and legacy.
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“We’re living history,” Horace’s daughter Vivian tells CBSLA’s DeMarco Morgan.
The secret to its success?
“We take great pride in what our parents have done,” Vivian said.
Vivian Bowers, one of Horace’s three children, runs the cleaner today.
“Not only are small businesses rare, but small Black businesses are extremely rare,” she adds.
She credits the cleaner’s survival to decisions her father made decades ago.
“I always wanted to have land,” Horace said. “Anytime I could buy a piece of ground, I’d buy it.”
In the early 1960s — to deal with the racism that African-Americans were facing in lending at the time — not only did Horace buy the dry cleaners itself, but the entire block, now known as Bowers Retail Square.
“Sometimes you had to have a different face go out and purchase for you and make the transaction and then you would sign the docs at the end,” Vivian said.
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Because the Bowers owned the land, their business has persevered through turmoil, riots and economic downturns, never having to worry about making rent.
“It’s better to own, because then you have control,” Vivian said.
Real estate developers have tried to purchase the property from the Bowers.
“You know, ‘here’s a hundred-thousand dollars, I’m gonna buy your property.’ And my father said, ‘why would I want your money? I have a business here. And after I spend that hundred thousand dollars, I don’t have anything,’” Vivian said.
“I said, ‘if we don’t help ourselves, nobody else is gonna help us,’” Horace told CBSLA.
In working to keep their community dressing sharp, Bowers and Sons Cleaners has supported and educated three generations.
“Here we are celebrating out 71st year, and we’re still going strong,” Vivian said.
Horace and his wife Alice have five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
The younger generations have agreed to work together to keep the business running once its time for Vivian to retire.
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“Build yourself a legacy,” Vivian said. “Find it in your heart to carry it on. And to be proud of who you are and what you’ve do.”