The Last Bookstore

Daughter found a wonderful bookstore when we were in LA. It is downtown, and is called The Last Bookstore. It boasts 250,000 volumes in 22,000 sq. ft. of space, including new, used, rare and antique  books, vinyl  LP’s, and graphic novels. It is in an old bank. The mystery novels are shelved in the vault. It claims to be the biggest bookstore in California.

There are overstuffed chairs all over, and a small stage area for poetry readings and lectures. People came in with bags of books to sell, and left with bags of books to read. It was a wonderful place. I especially liked the used book sculptures.

What kind of bookstore would you like to own?

46 thoughts on “The Last Bookstore”

  1. If I owned one, it would undoubtedly be an antiquarian bookstore. I kind of already have one except for the selling part. I’m not so sure, though, that I would want to run a bookstore. It’s a tough business, as evidenced by the number of bookstores that have disappeared in recent years— the chains, like Borders, B.Daltons and Waldenbooks, and the local used bookstores like Sixth Chamber, Leland Lien’s and Dinkytown Antiquarian Books.
    The kind of used and antiquarian bookstores I like best are the ones that are not over curated—where it feels like, if you browse persistently enough, you may find something really special. Owl Pen Books in Greenwich, New York is like that, a large barn stuffed with books, and James Cummings used to have a similar barnful near Knapp, WIsconsin but he has since moved to Tennessee with his books. Driftless Books in Viroqua, Wisconsin is a worthy destination. It’s housed in a very large brick former tobacco warehouse.

    When we were in Wales, one of my must-see objectives was Hay-on-Wye, the Welsh book town. With about two dozen bookstores in a relatively small town, it’s a mecca for bibliophiles. I was rather disappointed, however, to find that the books on offer were so heavily curated, there was nothing to discover. I suppose when you have that much bookstore competition in an area like that, acquiring and replenishing stock is a challenge. I left without purchasing anything of note.

    I visited Moon Palace books, which is quite near our house, for the first time recently. I had assumed it was a specialty bookstore, based on the name I suppose, but was pleased to discover that it’s a large and thoughtfully stocked general bookstore with an attached restaurant and a good community vibe. I hope they continue to succeed.

    Liked by 6 people

  2. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I love the book sculptures. It is similar to the rock sculptures I recently learned to do—there is a woman in France who makes arches with rocks similar to the arches with books you picture. Wow. it reminds me of the Ken Follett trilogy about building cathedrals in England and his description of learning to build arches.

    I think the only viable bookstores are now on-line. That is sad because it is such a pleasure to browse books, especially used ones with their two stories—the one in print and the one about where that book has been. That said, there is no bookstore I would want to own. Browse, yes; own, no.

    There has to be someone that creates the new model of shopping—the stores where you can look at things and hold them, look at them, try on and fit things and then order them via internet. I hope that develops soon.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I hope there is some new model that allows brick-and-mortar stores to continue, but I don’t quite get what you described, Jacque (I may be missing something…) If a person is trying on and fitting things, why not buy them right there?

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      1. What I mean by this is with clothing and shoes, and probably other things, I order the same thing in different colors over and over. I really need only to try something on for the fit once. After I know what fits in a certain company, I can order the rest online. Meanwhile, the way it is now, I get really tired of paying the shipping to send back things that do not fit well.

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    2. Your “new” model sounds to me like the brick and mortar bookstores that also have their inventory online. Most used and antiquarian bookstores have adopted that model to survive. Some, of course, have dropped the store part of that equation and only exist online. Robin and I drove around Galena, Illinois looking for Main Street Books, which I remembered as a pretty good used bookstore. It turned out the address led us to a house in an outlying neighborhood—not an open business.

      I love browsing bookstores and the serendipity that sometimes happens when you find something you didn’t know existed, but the advent of online book sales has also been a tremendous benefit to me. Many of the books I’m looking for in the editions I want are scarce. Online, where millions of books are searchable, I may find only a handful of copies. If I were trying to find those books by chance browsing bookstores, my odds would be slim to none.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’d like a bookstore with lots of books on theater and art. The comfy chairs would be nice. A cool old building would add charm.
    With nice lighting. And some dogs to wander around. Ok, maybe a cat too.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Daughter loves bookstores almost more than her father and I do. She was surprised by the grittiness of downtown LA, expecting so.ething more like Beverly Hills.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I probably wouldn’t want to own a bookstore at this point, but I’d help out in someone else’s. When our paperback exchange here on the east end was up for sale last year, a few of us were exploring how to do a co-op bookstore (there are a few successful ones in the eastern U S), but didn’t get it off the ground. (Luckily, she decided to keep the store, but take one more day a week off.)

    I did my little book business back in early 90s – it wasn’t my store, though, so I didn’t have the entire bookstore-owner experience. Business card said:
    * adult and children’s books
    * for growth of people and planet
    * new and used titles
    * special orders

    I had a ball while the arrangement lasted, but like any small business, it was all-consuming of my time, and I was ready to let it go when the time came.

    There are still successful bookstores out there, but you have to know where they are. Last I checked, Magers and Quinn was still doing ok on Hennepin and 31st, Mpls… anyone know? And Half Price Books always seems busy when I stop there.. A lot of times they have a specialty, like Birchbark Books.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Whenever I go into an unfamiliar used bookstore, I ask if the store has a specialty, if it isn’t obvious. Often the store will be strong on a subject that reflects the owner’s interest or that features some regional aspect—an author or a topic. Those specialties give bookstores individual character.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I am sure with all your underworld connections you could use the bookstore as a legitimate front for your more illegal enterprises.

          Liked by 4 people

  6. I’m going to go to the fantasy route. So I don’t have to worry about anything technical; the taxes will do themselves and the staff shows up when they’re supposed to. And I would have animals very much like wild rumpus in Minneapolis. Cats. chickens I think they have mice still and probably a gecko or two. And I would have a large children’s and young adults section as well as Art and Science Fiction and history and biography. I guess a little of everything. And definitely chairs and sofas and free beverages for everybody. Big windows for sunlight and massive window boxes of flowers that bloom year round.

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  7. Picking up on VS’s fantasy route, I’d serve wine and light munchies in my bookstore. I’d have at least one dedicated book club meeting room with comfy chairs that would hold 6-10 people. I’d have a couple of game tables for chess/checker players or other board/card games. I’d probably go about 50% used books (Even though I imagine that’s a pain in the butt to deal with).

    Because this is my fantasy, I’d have a large room for author presentations (and serve age-appropriate beverages there too). Say a room that can hold 50-60 people but can be downsized with dividers or portable walls so if an author only has 10 people attending an event, he/she won’t feel so depressed because the smaller room will still seem full (I’m thinking about Once Upon a Crime–ten’s definitely a large group in their presenting space. 🙂

    I’d have one empty wall dedicated to showcasing the works of local artists such as painter, sculptors, photographers, etc. I’d have a play area for toddlers and young children (in a separate room). I’d have dedicated rooms of books for children with child-sized shelves and maybe beanbag chairs for them to sit in while browsing.

    If parent spent more than $50 on books in one visit, I’d give them one free children’s book of their choice (kid’s to be there to pick it out though. NO PARENTAL “GUIDANCE” ON THAT). And the kid will have to promise to read the book, then return within a week or two and tell me about the book.

    I could probably brainstorm more “brilliant” ideas, but that’s a pretty good start. If only it were that easy to run a successful, profitable bookstore these days.

    Chris in Owatonna

    *BSP* I’ll be presenting my first PowerPoint presentation Tuesday, June 4, 7:00 pm at the Owatonna Public Library (a grand old building). The title is “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Writing a Novel but Were Afraid to Ask.”

    Should be fun. Could be a trainwreck if my computer doesn’t work or the library equipment explodes. We shall see. 🙂

    -C

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I would work in any of these fantasy book stores. Mine would be smallish and a mix of kids books and grown-up books, but lots of opportunity for serendipity (and for adults to feel no shame or guilt about picking up a novel written for late elementary age kids because they want to read it themselves…). Some comfy chairs. A couple of dogs to hop into laps or nap in the windows. Maybe a cat for those who prefer a cat in their lap (or are up for both cat and dog). Some baked goods. Some toys – enough room that there could be a spot for kids to play with wooden trains or Lego while their parents browse (or sit with a critter on their lap). Probably a mix of used and new. Maybe like Paperback Book Exchange on 50th and Penn with a few critters, room for some toys, a couple of chairs squirreled away in the corners, and a window into the coffee shop next door…

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I was thinking of the Red Wing used bookstore where Chris signed his books recently. They have a dog, Reveler – you can see his picture on their wb site here https://www.fairtradebooksrw.com – and a nice old-fashioned space with just the right degree of disorder in the shelves. That’s the sort of place I would like to own. And I’d like to make enough money to pay someone else to manage it for me, so I could just wander in whenever I pleased without having to do all the bookkeeping and buying and selling. A coffee and wine bar would make it perfect.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That reminds me. FTB offers a thoughtful perk to visiting authors. While the author is there signing books, he/she gets her choice of music genre on Pandora (They have a nice sound system there.) So, my store will have commercial-free music during business hours. MPR classical by default, but anyone can request a certain genre (from a carefully curated list–NO RAP or HEAVY METAL or other teeth-grating styles. Just excellent book browsing music that is conducive to buying.

      Book clubs meeting at my store will have the room separately wired for the music they want in the background while they discuss–IF they want music.

      ANOTHER GREAT IDEA! Any and all writers are welcome to patronize my store and write in my little coffee-shop area.

      . . .

      Does anyone know a millionaire who wants to turn a million $$ into half a million in about two years? 😉

      Chris

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