Riot Stories

L.A. Riots: "It felt like I had been stabbed in the heart"

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Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 1:15 PM

click to enlarge Barry Abell
  • Barry Abell
Read L.A. Weekly cover story about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, featuring more personal stories from that turbulent time.

On the evening of April 29, 1992, Barry Abell got a call at home from one of his employees, telling him people with a truck were banging on the front door of the family business: the Abell Auction Company in the Adams-Normandie neighborhood. Within in no time, looters broke into the auction house that sold antique furnishings, ransacked it, and burned it down.

"It didn't seem to be a part of reality," recalls Abell, who's immigrant grandfather started the business in 1916, of the Los Angeles Riots. "It felt like I had been stabbed in the heart ... We were heart-broken. This was our life. This was all we've known. Then we had no business."

Very active in the community with charitable work, Abell Auction was also respected among antique dealers and interior decorators across Los Angeles.

By the end of their devastating night, the Abell family lost $2 million in inventory, two buildings, memorabilia that included photographs of famous Hollywood actors and actresses who had attended auctions over the years, and an extensive research library.

The Abells tried to rebuild on the same location on West Adams Boulevard near Western Avenue, but, Barry Abell says, the city of Los Angeles made it difficult for them to quickly get the necessary permits. They sold the property and moved to the city of Commerce, where the auction house stands today.

"It's a very business-friendly area," says Abell, who's president of the company. "Business is very good. I can't complain."

But Don Schireson, Barry's cousin and vice-president of the auction house, thinks today's tough economic times could cause more unrest in the future.

"The scary thing is that there's no reason it won't happen again," says Schireson. "There's a big difference between the poor and wealthy."

In interviews with L.A. Weekly for this week's cover story featuring "then-and-now" photographs of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, other everyday Angelenos think the same thing. What do you think?

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

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