EL CHAVO! checks out Painted Signs
One of the first things gentrifiers do when they move into a
neighborhood they plan to colonize is to start complaining; either
about the people, trash, homes, graffiti, stores, or some other
trivial thing they find of utmost importance. But I was still surprised
when one of those cretins felt it necessary to criticize the use of
painted signs on store fronts as "ghetto", insisting that all stores
should have some manufactured sign, like the boring plastic
contraptions you see out in the shittier parts of town. Absurd! This
sentiment is based on middle-class resentments for poor people's DIY
approach (otherwise known as making due with what you've got) and from
an upbringing that rejects anything remotely non-conformist: is it any
wonder the suburbs are packed with homes and stores bereft of
Aside from the class war issues, it's a plain fact that painted signs
are always nicer than the corporate equivalent. Well, mostly always.
And in an effort to prove that fact, I thought I'd take another stroll
down the neighborhood and snap some pics of some of our very own
temporary works of art that serve to advertise local businesses. What
they may lack in professionalism they make up for in creativity and
color, and that makes them much more interesting.
Ready for the tour? Siganme los Buenos!
Where to start? I know, with the painting that inspired the idea, this
crazy vaquero at a taco joint on Main St, I'll call him Chema. You know
that if you were a painting you'd be wanting to hang out with crazy
Chema, all ready for action despite his lack of opposable thumbs, yet
he could care less. It's all grins and kick-your-ass badness for
looking at his square teeth! Calmantes montes paisa, no hay pleito!
Nearby is this other nice sign for a carniceria, I like how the pig is
following the cow and a bunch of fruit are also tagging along. These
last 3 pics were taken at night, but they still look okay. I'm glad you
Next stop, Bob's- El Aguila Negra! See, even "real" signs can't be
trusted as there is no plush cellar to be found, but you can get cheap
beer in a can, seguro que si. I thought I'd include a few shots of
normal signs just to prove how much better a good ol' brush and can of
paint can be. By the way, I think that Grand Opening next door has been
on for some time now.
Heading up N. Broadway we find Raspados Nayarit, and they've got lots
of interesting signs on their shop: from fresh fruit, to snow cones
raspados), strawberries w/ cream, and even smoked turkey sandwiches,
and all 100% natural. LH has got it going on!
But if you're feeling a bit more sinister, you might want to check out
their sign in the driveway for the Ricos Diablitos, anything a devil in
a bow tie wants to sell me, I'm buying!
If you try the demon drink, make sure not to lose your senses, because
next door is a WIC place with this weird lady that seems to want to
kiss everyone: the boy is smiling but her face suggests she has other
things in mind. Get the hell out Smiley!
Here's another "real" sign, for the 98¢ and up store, I bet they
paid more than that for the sign but nobody brags about how nice it is.
The Bi-Rite has a similar color scheme, but their place looks much
livelier. A smiley face with a sombrero tends to do that!
Here's a pic from the other side. Much props to them and other local
stores for catering to the food stamp shopper, that's something stores
Joe's refuse to do, even though they'd attract more business with
their lower prices on items like milk and eggs, but I guess they don't
attract the wrong clientele. They think they're all fancy and shit but
we all know TJ's customers are just a bunch of fancy penny-pinchers, no
different from the food stamp/EBT crowd, they just like to think
I'm not sure what goes on inside, but the entrance is inviting.
Down a ways is the Broadway Social Center, a cool spot to shot some
pool and hang out. I like how they matched the sun styled security bars
with the color of the sign, now that's a good example of proper design!
Across the street is La Playita, they have a nice neon/painted sign
though I rarely see it turned on.
And also nearby is this other kick-ass mural, with beautiful cows,
regal pigs, stately looking gallos, magueys, and a vaquero keeping an
eye on everything. And there's the little town off in the
distance, with it's mountains in the background, it could have been LH
many years ago, no que no?
Although I'm not sure what they grow on that terreno cuz the window
next to the mural has a painting of a cornucopia
of fruits and vegetables, it's got Coke, toilet paper, Ajax, Windex and
other bounties of our not-so-natural world.
I guess it's not much different from this place that has veggies, yet
the Power Rangers seem to be taking center stage. I wish them colorful
Rangers showed us something practical, like how to tame the cooking
range! You can't karate chop a tomato and make it into a nice salsa, or
at least the Rangers aren't spilling the secrets. One thing you'll
notice about many Mexican run stores is that they like to keep the
windows covered, be it with pictures, paintings, or posters advertising
the phone cards they sell and their different rates. They don't like
you looking at them through the window, but feel free to come inside
and say hello!
Check out this one for Cafe & Internet: it's a painted sign AND it
looks quite professional! They are trying to open up the coffee shop
part but LA city codes are hard to overcome.
Bran Car has both a "real" sign and a painted one, I think I like the
huge painted car radio better.
Near the I-5 on ramp is a store for fixed up household appliances, you
might find a stove like the one pictured here.
Or maybe even a refrigerator, like this one being moved by a uniformed
This car wash has a cool looking street sign, though it's most likely
some pro work, maybe litho?
Next door is "El Tarasco", a mexican eatery. They have paintings all
around but this grand mural is the best one, though it's usually
obscured by that gate.
Next to that fine painting is one of more common stock, just like many
you'll see around here: a piece made by a graf artist trying to make a
buck. This burro is hauling a huge taco, at the same time it's reading
out items 11 and 12 off the menu: Huevos Rancheros and a la Mexicana,
the staples of a proper breakfast. And here I thought donkeys could
only bray, shows what I know. That red sign seems to be hiding
some old promotion for "Free Breakfast / Desayuno", guess I missed out.
Here's a pic from across the street, with the huge sign notifying
the public about their Tacos, Tortas, and Burritos, in between a
Mexican flag and the aguila.
There's a bunch of hair shops on Broadway, the following 3 are really
close to each other. You'll find Lords,
and Lina's. That's one crazy looking hair model. I like the spanglish:
Across the street is Stadco,
they have a very basic painted sign that does the job of stating who
they be. They do machining work, but it's quite revealing to
read on their website that they do exclusive
work for the space shuttle and they help make parts for some of
them lil' missiles that are meant to blow up houses. See, all of a
sudden that distant invasion by the Israeli state into Lebanon seems
that much closer. (Insert mental picture of war dead here.) Even
better, the work force is non-union,
as the site seems to boast. What creepy neighbors we've got. Run,
Speaking of terrible things, we only get to see crazy monsters
like this one (though being made of paint, they are quite cute!) which
come around once a year for Halloween. These were on Daly St.
A witch flies over the pumpkin patch. These halloween window paintings
are common during the season all around LH and East LA.
Not really a sign but the colorful Buddhist temple on Daly attracts
just as much attention.
I thought this one was interesting mainly for the misspelling of
'installation'. If a keyboard makes typos, do sign makers make signos?
This one is huge and very visible.
Martha's painted over the old Anita's sign
with their own purple version. Someone seems to have added another item
to the menu.
The 5 points (named after that crazy intersection where cars still have
a hard time figuring out the stoplights) has a bunch of signs. And it's
a good place to buy pants.
Next door we have Wolzes aka 5 Points Hardware with their own colorful
walls. This place is better than the Home Despot, just show them what
you need and they'll get it for you, saves time and lots of walking up
and down endless aisles!
And not to be outdone, Ray's Lock Shop across the way offers a
descriptive sign and great service: he still carries a mix of skeleton
keys for all the old doors and locks you find in many LH homes.
We all now what this flame signals: fast, cheap, and good food at the
Llamarada. It's basically a place for workers to get fed.
And if they have some extra time, they can stop by next door to get
their tax forms done.
A fairly new sign of great caliber is the one at El Corita,
a scene of tortillas being made by hand, and yes, they do make their
own tortillas de maiz.
They also have a special wall for Jesus Malverde, patron saint of
narco-trafficantes and others wanting some luck. They've recently
redesigned this restaurant with a real bar and a new pool table! Inside
you'll see some more interesting paintings.
Okay, I think that's quite enough pics for now, if you have a
suggestion of a painted sign you think should be included, send me an
email. I'll leave you with one of my favorite signs, but this one was
in Highland Park and it has now sadly disappeared..
You can barely make it out but the cartoon in the blue hat is excited
that at Fair Market they have the 2 necessities of life, exclaiming
"Allright! Money & Beer", now that's a guy with his priorities
See, painted signs have much more to offer than their
corporate-plastic-steel competitors: they allow for an array of colors
and an immense potential for creativity. Those that would impose the
staid manufactured sign on our community do us no favors by limiting
our canvas to the pale shade of dull. If anything, we should be
demanding that the corporate shops redo their signs in a historically
appropriate painted format. The gentrifying concept of "taste" is no
longer a personal choice when it becomes another strategic weapon to be
used against the poor in the ongoing class war: it's a call to arms!
Ladies and gentlemen, load your brushes!