The line wraps around the block of South Main Street in East Los Angeles even before the store opens. Latino families wait together, many from Mexico, and South and Central America. Many of these customers are new to the United States, but they’ve already seen a Spanish-language flyer or have been told by a relative where they can go to buy a television, sofa or microwave from someone who speaks their language. That’s how they end up at Dearden’s, a six-floor, one-stop-shop for electronics, furniture, jewelry and travel. While Dearden’s has been in business since 1910, the L.A. chain has been attracting Hispanic customers ever since the 1960s, according to Frank Maclean, a buyer at the superstore.
“We started as a furniture store, but later picked appliances and electronics,” says Maclean. “We have seven stores in the Greater L.A. area now. They’re all in primarily Hispanic neighborhoods, where Hispanics do their grocery shopping and where there are other Hispanic businesses.”
Relying on foot traffic, direct mail and word-of-mouth, Dearden’s customers are predominantly Latino. Maclean says they come to the store for three reasons: They can get the products they want, pay for these products in installments and they can freely speak their native language. “About 90 percent of the staff speaks Spanish,” says Maclean. “A lot of the customers speak English, but they prefer to speak Spanish so things don’t get lost in translation.” He says this is particularly important for electronics sales, which has been a somewhat tricky market for Latinos in recent years.