|    Blog

Vivian Bowers knows a thing or two about serving her community. It’s practically in her DNA. Born into a family dry cleaning business, they’ve been rooted in South LA for 60 years. Her father purchased the business from her maternal grandfather, renamed it Bowers & Sons, and never looked back. “If anyone thinks about 25th Street and Central Avenue, they think about Bowers & Sons,” she says. Vivian has been at the helm of her family’s business since 1994, making sure their customers look and feel their best. Remarkably, she’s also extended that care and attention to detail to the community around her. This is why we are proud to honor Vivian Bowers with an Icon of Empowerment Award.  

By the time her parents were ready to pass on the family business, Bowers & Sons had stood the test of time. They’d successfully navigated the 1965 and 1992 uprisings, shifting demographics, economic downturns, and increasing crime. Still, Vivian took the reins with a vision of growth. Refusing to leave Central Avenue or implement security measures that would take from the familial environment her parents fostered, she executed strategies that would eventually help the business realize 300% growth. 

Vivian’s plan, however, involved more than her family’s success. She also had goals for the community. “I got to know the community again, and they got to know me,” she recalls. Rather than complaining about things she wanted to see change, she leaned in to make it happen herself. One of her first steps included putting a mural on the building, which stopped the tagging issues they were experiencing. Next, she explored what resources the City of Los Angeles offered to improve the appearance of the entire commercial block, which the Bowers family owned. “When you look good, you feel good,” she believes. Vivian then encouraged neighboring entrepreneurs to join her. With the help of the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) and CEO Mark Wilson, the Central Avenue Business Association (CABA) was established. In time, more than 300 local businesses joined the association, aiming to propel the revitalization of the area. Vivian led the organization as its president and pushed the city to clear alleyways, pick up trash on the streets, and enforce parking regulations. They also succeeded in getting a few pocket parks installed, adding more green spaces in the surrounding area. This course of action made it easier for residents to stay in their own community to do business rather than go elsewhere. “It gave people a sense of pride,” she says, “and our businesses began to flourish.” 

30 years later, Vivian has even more in her sights. She wants the Central Avenue Business Association to run at full speed again to continue the work they initiated years ago. With the right amount of effort, Vivian believes Central Avenue will be the vibrant hub it once was for Los Angeles’ Black community from the 1920s to the 1960s. She also still wants to see a bank in the neighborhood. Lastly, Vivian dreams of creating a community space for creatives and youth to learn coding.  In true fashion, she already has a building in mind to bring that to fruition. “I just want people to realize that Central Avenue and South Central is not just ‘over there.’ It’s a beautiful community with beautiful people who deserve and need services just like everyone else.” 

It’s hard to think where Central Avenue would be today without her dedication. On behalf of CRCD and the greater South LA community, we salute Vivian Bowers, a true Icon of Empowerment.