Although cosmetic pioneer Barbara Walden vowed never to sell her products through a department store ever again, when she walked into the LAX Department store on Century Boulevard in Inglewood about a year and a half ago, all thoughts of “never” flew out the door.
Founded by Alvin Jackson and Linda Smith as a way to raise money for their nonprofit foundation, the two-story store is on par with other small, independent clothing retailers.
The upscale clothing and shoes sold at the store carry names like Ralph Lauren and Carlos Felini, and there is a special emphasis placed on serving the needs of the faith-based community.
That first impression was definitely a lasting one, and convinced Walden that her never rule needed to be broken. She did and set up her make-up counter in the store, and it is the first thing shoppers see, when they venture into the store.
On September 13, Jackson, Smith and Walden are partnering once more to host a 78th birthday party for the skin-care entrepreneur. But this is no ordinary party because the proceeds will benefit the Foundation for Special People (FSP) and the Fred Jordan Mission.
The party will be held in the “upper room” of the LAX Department store and will feature food, dance and open mic opportunities. Guest will also walk away with a Barbara Walden cosmetic gift bag.
The donation is $50 per person, and reservations should be made by calling (310) 672-3400.
According to Jackson, the department store was originally gong to be a thrift shop which would raise money for the FSP and provide some of their clients with job training and employment. But the City of Inglewood would not grant them a permit.
“We sat on the building three years hoping they would change their minds,” said Jackson who co-owns with Smith 10 residential homes for the developmentally disabled. But city officials did not budge.
“It’s in the gateway, and they felt (a thrift store) was not in the best interest of the city,” recalled Jackson.
So he and Smith, with no prior retail background, quickly began learning that industry and opened the department store. They soon realized that the faith-based community was who they wanted to serve, and tweaked the store and merchandise mix to reflect that. Consequently, consumers walking in the door will not hear the unobtrusive “elevator” music but soulful gospel instead. The men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing is offered with an eye toward what people wear to church or for more formal occasions, and a more casual line of linen two-piece outfits carries the LAX label.
Jackson and Smith also have a number of other plans on the drawing board including issuing a tithing debit card that will enable them to donate 10 percent of the items purchased with the card to a customer’s church.
They are also in the process of transforming the second level into a space where special events and other activities can be held. Walden’s birthday bash will christen the first move in that direction, and gives the trio of entrepreneurs an opportunity to raise funds for two causes they all believe in.