Oral Histories

Interview of Jeanette Bolden-Pickens

Co-owner of the 27th Street Bakery in Los Angeles.
"Where Do We Go from Here?" Histories of Long-term Black Business Ownership, Community, and Family in Los Angeles County
African American History
Biographical Note:
Co-owner of the 27th Street Bakery in Los Angeles.
Hester, Yolanda
Bolden-Pickens, Jeanette
Persons Present:
Bolden-Pickens and Hester.
Place Conducted:
27th Street Bakery in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Yolanda Hester, UCLA Center for Oral History Research; M.A., African American studies, UCLA.Hester prepared for the interview in this series by looking at a number of books and articles that examined Black business ownership in a historical context, as well as articles that examined it from a social science perspective and looked at current socioeconomic debates and findings. For the Bolden-Pickens interview, she reviewed articles on the business in local publications such as the Los Angeles Times, the L.A. Weekly, and the Los Angeles Sentinel, as well as food publications.
Processing of Interview:
The interviewer prepared a timed log of the audio recording of the interview. Bolden-Pickens was given the opportunity to review the log in order to supply missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the content but made no changes.
3 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series documents long-term and multigenerational business ownership in the black community through oral history interviews with owners of businesses located in Los Angeles County. The title is inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s last book, Where Do We Go From Here? Chaos or Community, which focused on economic issues, including issues related to black-owned businesses.Businesses were chosen to participate in the series based on two criteria: that the business had been in operation for at least twenty-five years and that it was currently active at the time of the interview. An effort was also made to ensure that the businesses selected represented a variety of sizes and industries. They range from small, local businesses with only a couple of employees to enterprises that have a regional and even national reach, and the industries represented include construction, real estate, insurance, communications, dry cleaning, restaurants and catering, mortuaries, barbershops, and stove repair. Due to limited resources and time constraints, the interviews focused primarily on businesses in the Pasadena area and in South Los Angeles, with selected businesses in Hollywood, Gardena, and downtown Los Angeles as well. South Los Angeles remains one of the most important centers of Black economic activity in the region, and the Pasadena area has historically been a final stop for many Blacks who migrated to Southern California. It is also important to note that although the series focused mostly on these two areas, the reach and customer base of these businesses span well beyond their local communities.The first section of each oral history covers the individual’s family and migration history. The second and third sections then examine each business from two perspectives: (1) the day-to-day functioning of the business, i.e., staffing, profit and losses, marketing, etc., and (2) broader businesses strategies, including responses to policy changes, technological development, demographic shifts, and changes in the economy. For reasons that included scheduling, health, and capacity issues, some of the business owners who were invited to be interviewed declined. Those businesses included Eso Won Books, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, Pete’s Foods Products, Winmax Construction Corporation, Beauchamp Distributing Company, and Gallery Plus.The UCLA Center for Oral History Research has also created a website that offers more context about black businesses in Los Angeles and includes numerous audio clips from this interview series. See https://www.library.ucla.edu/community-commerce-oral-histories-african-american-businesses-los-angeles
Birth and family background—Growing up in Compton—Home life—Religion in the family—Education—Diagnosed with severe asthma—Boarding at Sunair Home for Asthmatic Children in Tujunga, California—First experience with racism—High school years and running track—Competing in the 1984 Olympics—History of 27th Street Bakery—A family business—Mother takes over the business—Growing up in the business—Mother’s passing—Bolden Pickens takes over the business with her sister—Family recipe—Early challenges.
Grooming for succession in the family—Becoming owner of the bakery—Expenses of the bakery—Protecting the family secret recipe—Competition—Menu changes—Community relations—Expansion—Technology—Policy changes—L.A. Riots—Importance of Black-owned businesses.