Veteran entrepreneur keeps eyeing new ventures
Frank Denkins expands his retail empire
After 55 years of running his own businesses, most of them in retail, Frank Denkins has developed some simple philosophies that keep the nearly 78-year-old entrepreneur going.
“I can’t accept failure—period. I can’t accept failure under any circumstance. The only thing that is going to take me out, is when the Lord calls me home. That’s what I feel about this. Failure is not an option.”
Denkins, who currently owns Office Furniture L.A. located on Crenshaw Boulevard and 76th Street and sells new and used goods, has been in the retail business since he was 22 years old and following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
“I was 22 years old, and I wanted to get started in life. I chose to be in businesses for myself,” explained Denkins, who said there was a family tradition of entrepreneurship.
His first venture was a service station he opened in 1956 in the heart of Leimert Park called Frank’s Flying A Service Station.
The business was initially going to be a joint venture with his father, who ran an auto detailing business at the time, but when it came time to move ahead, Denkins said his dad opted out.
He appealed to his mother for help.
“She said ‘I’ll get the money,’” remembers Denkins with an undercurrent of humor in his voice. “She hocked all the furniture in the house. She went to Pacific Finance on Crenshaw.”
That netted $600, which was half of the amount needed. Denkins said the rest came from his friend and business partner Johnny Conner.
“I had the service station for eight years, and I was the first Black-owned retail business there,” recalls Denkins, who would eventually go on to own laundromats and 12 dry cleaning stores, and at one time employed 300 people.
Looking around today, Denkins says he does not see as many Blacks in the retail business as he did when he first started as a small business owner.
“The only thing you might find is a restaurant or a beauty shop,” noted Denkins, who acknowledges the difficulty of staying afloat in retail, and credits his own success with always trying something new.
And at an age when most people are thinking about retirement, Denkins is about to take his business in a new direction. He is planing to add a document-shredding-while-you-wait service to his office furniture sales.
“A lot of people are pack rats. They don’t know when to get rid of certain documents. They’ll pack it in a garage, and then 10 years later say they want to get rid of it, but they don’t want to trash it.”
Individuals can bring their documents in to be shredded while they wait and watch, or have the boxes picked up and the items shredded.
The goal is to launch the new business at the first of the year, and while Denkins knows there is no guarantee of success, he is confident that the right advertising and promotion, coupled with his years of retail experience will give his new venture a better chance.
Frank Denkins, (center shown accepting the award, along with his wife Rosemary) CEO of Office Furniture L.A., was recently named businessman of the year by State Senator Curren Price (left) during a Sacramento ceremony. Denkins opened his first business, a gasoline station, in the Leimert Park area in 1956. From there, he opened a cleaners in 1969 that eventually morphed into a chain of 12 stores. The highlight of that business was being named the official dry cleaners of the 1984 Olympics. That enabled Denkins to provide services to more than 6,800 athletes from 140 nations.