On Dec. 14, 1992, fearing a second riot would erupt after a demonstration near Florence and Normandie avenues, Raul Delcomber rushed to his South-Central store to remove his stock of beepers and cellular telephone equipment.
While loading the goods into his car, Delcomber was shot to death during an attempted robbery--just seven months after reopening the riot-damaged Del Comber Communications at Manchester Boulevard and Normandie. Four suspects remain at large.
Despite this tragedy and financial setbacks, Bernita Lindsey, Delcomber's fiance and general manager of the store, said she and Delcomber's brothers will keep the business going and plan to remain in South-Central.
Lindsey is among four African-American business owners honored by the Los Angeles Black Business Expo for reopening after suffering heavy losses during the riots. The expo, which includes display booths and business education seminars, is scheduled for April 3-4 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Also honored was Mark Mayo of Leimert Park Office Supply, Claudette Jones of Ascot Party Rental in North Hollywood and hair salon owner Earleen Scates.
Scates owns and operates Dynamic Hair Design, a Southwest Los Angeles salon that sustained nearly $100,000 in damage in the riots. To keep the business, Scates and her two daughters have had to dip into their savings and work other jobs to pay off a bank loan for the 18-booth salon and a $52,000 Small Business Administration riot-relief loan. Scates said her insurance premium increased $1,000 after the riots.
Still, Scates is optimistic. "This means that one day our whole family will get a salary here," she said. "We're working for economic independence."
Barbara Lindsey (no relation to Bernita Lindsey), the founder and executive director of the Los Angeles Black Business Expo, said there are many businesses such as Scates' that are operating in the red as they struggle to repay loans and regain profits.
More than 1,700 business in Los Angeles County were damaged during last year's riots, but there is no information about how many of them were black-owned. However, Barbara Lindsey said the riots and the general economic downturn have affected many black-owned businesses. And she said that is why she chose to have the Black Business Expo honor the efforts of these African-American entrepreneurs.
Many business owners said that the plight of black-owned business has been ignored since the riots.
"Even though there were a lot of Korean store owners in black neighborhoods who were, as they say, the 'total target,' there were too many of the black businesses in the neighborhood that also suffered as well," said Bernita Lindsey.
Established in 1989, the Los Angeles Black Business Expo supports the development and marketing of black-owned businesses. Scates and Bernita Lindsey said they must now contend with high insurance premiums and the fear of more civil unrest.
Although insurance paid for about $100,000 in riot damage, Lindsey said she was recently notified that her insurance policy will be canceled before verdicts are reached in the Rodney G. King and Reginald O. Denny trials.
Lindsey said she has been offered jobs to run other small companies, and Scates' businesses associates have suggested that she move the salon to the Westside.
But both plan to remain.
"This means more than money to me," Scates said. "It means gratification, making people happy, trying to let other people have jobs to work. The main thing I want to make black people aware of is that they can do things for themselves. Just take a batch of pencils and go out there and sell them. Buy them for 10 cents and sell them for 25 cents. It's better than working for 'The Man.' "