L.A. Office Furniture (LAOF) has endured just about everything from multiple location changes to a bad economy, but now, owner Frank Denkins is closing the store. Recently, he spoke to the Sentinel about surviving the decades as a Black business owner and about what it takes be an entrepreneur. Denkins also spoke about what he intends do with his new life of leisure after being in business in Los Angeles for over 2 decades.
“I am going out of business and I am closing my doors,” said Denkins. “Hopefully, by the end of this month, no later than the middle of [July] at least.”
Established in 1991, LAOF opened its door on North LaBrea in Inglewood, where they operated for three years. The next location would be on La Cienega Blvd., where the store resided for 14 years. In 2007, LAOF moved to a new location on Figueroa which Denkins describes as a “disaster” due to lease issues.
It was at this time that the economy crashed, resulting in the loss of many businesses. In 2008, LAOF eventually ended up on Crenshaw Blvd., just north of Inglewood where it all started. Denkins prides himself on staying within Los Angeles and catering to his community.
LAOF has serviced the community supplying new and used office furniture to L.A-based businesses. They have supplied furnishings for many well-known organizations such as the Urban League, Crenshaw Christian Center, First AME Church, One United Bank and Walsh Shea just to name a few.
“We’ve been, probably, the only Black-owned office furniture company in the Los Angeles community,” said Denkins. “We’ve done a lot of office furniture business throughout Los Angeles and from all areas of the business community, primarily within the Black community.”
Despite mentioning that accessing corporate America had been a challenge, LAOF has maintained an excellent track record. That is due to the fact that Denkins has always been a consistent businessman. Before LAOF, he was in the dry cleaning business.
Denkins ran Holiday Village Cleaners, which he started in 1970 and stayed in business until 1990. Denkins dry cleaning business had a total of 12 locations, one being on Manchester and 5th Ave in Inglewood.
“I’ve been a true entrepreneur over the years,” said Denkins. He had some words of wisdom for aspiring entrepreneurs and what he feels is the pitfall many experience when going into business.
“Everybody seems like they want get whatever they can get without realizing that there is hard work in it,” said Denkins. “When the hard work starts coming to them, then they say, ‘oh-oh, I don’t know if I can take it anymore.’”
Denkins credits his work ethic due to his father’s influence—and he comes from a long line of businessmen. The idea of hard work was something that was passed down through his family. Denkins believes there is no getting around the building blocks of being successful—hard work.
“We always believed there is no substitution for hard work,” said Denkins. “To be a quitter, you cannot be that in order to be stable, to be successful.
“There is no such thing as ‘can’t’, you got to do everything you can—you don’t think of yourself as a failure.
“That’s where I come from in terms of being old school.”
Denkins managed to keep LAOF going for decades despite moving multiple times and a downturn in the economy. Ultimately, it was progress that brought him to the conclusion it was time to close this chapter.
“The rail lines did me good and then it did me harm,” said Denkins. “It really caused a loss of revenue from the community.
“It stopped my progress in terms of business—I’ve had to really kind of work backwards in order to keep the business a float.
“I’ve only dealt in this community over 62 years and by having done that, being in this area all that time—I just feel like its time,” said Denkins. “I’m trying to preserve my health as best I can, so I just realized there is more to life than working.
“I’ve paid my dues.”
Denkins mentioned that he’s proud of organizations such as Recycling Black Dollars, which was founded by Muhammad A. Nassardeen and how he’s proud to have been a part its formation. He is also proud to have been a part of the Los Angeles, Crenshaw and Inglewood Chambers of Commerce as well. He also mentioned what he’s looking forward to most of all after LAOF.
“I’m thinking about giving some young people some information, hoping I can share it with them so they can be successful too,” said Denkins. “I want to share with others.”
He also added that spending time with his wife of over 50 years is another reason to retire.
“I want to be able to give my wife some treats.”
At age 82, Denkins is one of the most accomplished Black men in the Los Angeles area. He has managed multiple businesses that have served the community for decades. The community is sure to miss him but he has left a lasting legacy to be admired and applied in Black businesses.