East Los Angeles Renaissance Academy

Unique Dollar: a store with a unique past

Opened in the late 1920’s, the Unique Theater, which is now known as the Unique Dollar store located at First Street between Gage and Townsend Avenues in East Los Angeles, was an innovated structure at the time as a large neighborhood house with a nice marquee.

A theater that contained around 1,100 seats and only one screen was a hub where a lot of people would gather and watch new movies coming out at that time. According to testimonies, most of the movies that were played there back in the ’60s were Mexican movies; they were in Spanish because most of the population was Hispanic, especially Mexicans as it still now the predominance in East L.A.

Now the theater is forgotten by many, but still remembered by some. Only the old people remember this amazing place, but for the youth is only seen as a random store where they can buy cheap things.

Even though it has been converted into a store, it still conserves the theater sign. The sign says “Unique” and it represents both the theater and dollar store.

Doesn’t matter if it’s a store now or was a theater once, what matters here is the importance of that sign, that building. The art and design of this old structure is still conserved in our community. That symbolic building represents decades of history and maybe hundreds of memories for some people.

As some older people pass by, their memories come back to them and the nostalgia gets to them just by remembering how life was back in the days when they were young and used to go watch movies there with their friends, families and partner. But it’s just a memory because everything has changed. Now all they can do is enter that store and see how it has changed and try to imagine themselves like in the past.

Although it’s not a theater anymore, you can still visit as a store only. At that store you can find almost anything. You can also smell the odor of plastics, domestic products, and food, or packed food.

A lot of people go in and out of the store because they go buy things they need every day. This store is essential to our community because it contains a little bit of everything, so in any case you’re in need of something you can just go in there and check if you find what you are looking for.

If this store disappeared a lot of people will be sad not only for its occupation in this neighborhood, but also because of its history.

Unique Dollar is memorable and historic to our community because it contains decades of history. It represents our past, present, and our style.