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From buying holiday outfits to snacking on popcorn, Eastsiders share their memories of the Boyle Heights Sears

The historic Sears store is set to close by the middle of next month after more than 80 years

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Boyle Heights - For 73-year-old Arline Hernandez, the Sears store at Olympic Boulevard and Soto Street has long been a symbol of home, its green neon rooftop sign visible for miles around.

“As little kids we would always say, ‘When are we going to get home? Are we there yet?’ And when we would see the green letters, ‘Sears,’ we would know we are almost home,” Hernandez said in a phone interview.

But soon all that will be left of the giant store will be memories.

The historic Sears store is set to close by the middle of next month after more than 80 years, according to employees. TransformCo, Sears’ parent company, could not be reached for comment despite emails and a phone call.

During its final days, former and current Eastside residents shared their memories — everything from being greeted by the aromas of popcorn and chocolate to landing their first job -- of the Boyle Heights Sears.

A Special Occasion

Vivian Escalante, who grew up in Boyle Heights and attended Roosevelt High School, said going to Sears was often a special occasion, especially around the holidays.

“We’d get the Easter outfits, my Christmas outfits and then we’d go to Clifton’s to eat,” she said. “Going shopping was about my mother, my grandmother getting dressed up. It was to the nines with their daywear and I always had my little outfits on as well ... That was the way life was at the time. It was very stylish.”

sears store closing sign

Childhood memories made at Sears

Bryan Montero, who takes photos of the store for a retail Facebook group that he administers, said watching stores like Sears close is like “losing more of your childhood as you go.”

Montero recalled going to Sears with his grandparents as a kid, then growing up and driving down to the store himself.

Similarly, Jimmy Lopez, said the Sears store led him to a lifelong passion: Music.

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He got his first guitar, the Sears Wing Ding, from the shop when he was 9 years old.

“That little guitar started me off with more guitars and I still play and write to this day on my guitar. I believe I still may have the song book that came with that guitar,” Lopez wrote in a Facebook Messenger interview. “My dad was a truck driver for that particular Sears so he had discounts that came in handy for a family with five siblings ... We would get our school clothes and shoes, mostly from that store.”

Lourdes Ochoa-Marquez shared her fondest memories: “This is where my papi would take us to buy new clothes during the holiday season. It was also the best place to stand outside of and sell your school chocolate! But the ice cream stand outside was always my favorite.”

The place to shop

Terry Reyna said Sears “was the place to shop when I was growing up. You could get everything from underwear to washing machines and the famous Craftsman tools. My brother wore their Toughskins jeans.”

Vera Del Pozo said she shopped “at the furniture outlet...and also [at] the outlet downstairs” and she “always visited the ice cream-popcorn stand out front. Many memories!”

Signs of Sears

The neon signs of the Boyle Heights Sears store, which will be closing after 90 years.

Giving Sears credit

Roosevelt High grad Jose de Jesús Legaspi-Frias credits Sears for helping him establish his credit history: “I went to Sears on Olympic and I got a credit card. That was my start of credit worthiness so I could buy a car. The rest is history.”

Sears as a place to work and shop

Pamela Ponder Marquez said Sears was important to the local economy: “Sears hired locals from the community, and gave many youngsters and young adults their first job opportunities. Many family members worked there, including my husband, sister and two brothers-in-law, one of which had a very successful career there.”

George Garcia contributed to this story. UT Community News, produced by Cal State L.A. journalism students, covers public issues on the Eastside and South L.A.

Boyle Heights Sears store exterior

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