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Posts Tagged ‘independent bookstores’

“The Last Bookstore” in Los Angeles

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on August 3, 2014

I feel lucky to live in the Bay Area. We have a wealth of riches with regard to independent bookstores in the region, and I do my bit to shop at them every chance I get. I witnessed the proliferation of Barnes & Noble in New York City during the 80s and 90s and how that decimated the indie bookstores there. While I lived in Southern California, I studiously avoided having anything to do with Los Angeles, so I didn’t see firsthand the obliteration of small local bookstores there, other than the demise of the lefty Midnight Special bookstore in Santa Monica. So here’s The Last Bookstore, located at 453 S. Spring St, Ground Floor, in downtown LA:

The Last Bookstore by Bryan Frank
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The Last Bookstore, currently in our third incarnation, began in 2005 in a downtown Los Angeles loft. That was when owner Josh Spencer decided to take his decade of experience selling everything from cars to clothes on eBay and focus entirely on his first love: books. Our online business grew quickly along with the revival of downtown LA. When a small location in the Old Bank District at 4th and Main became available Christmas 2009, we jumped in and opened our doors to the public. The support from the community was overwhelming. Thanks, everybody!

People seemed to especially enjoy selling their used books to us, as one of the last places in LA still buying books. Our inventory quickly overflowed the shelves, and at the end of our lease June 2011 the Last Bookstore moved to the 10,000 sq. ft location at 5th & Spring St. A record shop and coffee bar filled out the ground floor September, 2011. Most recently, we expanded another 6,100 sq. ft. by opening up the Labyrinth Above the Last Bookstore on our mezzanine level, with over 100,000 books all priced at one dollar each! Now we’ve become the largest independent bookstore in California buying and selling used & new books and records.

The name was chosen with irony, but it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as physical bookstores are dying out like dinosaurs from the meteoric impact of Amazon and e-books. With our constant turnover of stock, regular musical and literary events, vinyl LP and graphic novel shops, and the Spring Arts Collective sharing our space, we book-lovers at the Last Bookstore hope to last as long as we can in downtown LA’s vibrant new community. Join the cause! Buy, sell, trade, and above all read real books…before they’re gone.

Here’s a great KCRW feature that says what we’re all about even better!: KCRW
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Posted in independent bookstores, life, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco Bay Area | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Going, going…

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on May 18, 2014

Shakespeare_and_Company_store_in_Paris
The famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris is a well known tourist destination. Actually, it was a bookstore begun by Sylvia Beach in 1919 which closed during the German occupation in 1940 and then a second bookstore founded by George Whitman in 1951, a tribute to Beach’s original which is still around.
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Shakespeare and Company is also a small chain of locally owned bookshops in New York City unaffiliated with its Paris namesake. With three locations all in Manhattan, Shakespeare and Co started in 1981. In May of this year, it was announced that the Broadway location will close due to an astronomical rent increase.
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I often visited Shakespeare and Co when I made regular pilgrimages to New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. The scourge that was (and remains) Barnes and Noble, which spread like cancer across the City and systematically killed off most of New York’s independent bookstores, is still around if financially ailing due to competition with Amazon. This mainstream New York Times obituary hopefully does not portend the overall Shakespeare chain’s demise.
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I’m constantly lamenting the death of all the joys that make living in San Francisco and New York so wonderful. The steady destruction of independent bookstores, record shops, cinemas, etc. due to urban gentrification and stratification doesn’t make me nostalgic, but rather sad and angry. A marvelous blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, had this to say about Shakespeare and Co. Jeremiah’s is where I first heard that Little Rickie, a famous novelty store in Manhattan, also recently closed. Little Rickie is where I bought a smokin’ fez monkey.
smokingmonkey
So fucking sad!

Posted in gentrification, independent bookstores, life, New York City, Paris, San Francisco, Shakespeare & Co | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Changes to the neighborhood

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on November 26, 2013

I did a series on Paris (“City of Light”) and San Francisco (“San Francisco, Paris of the West”), part of which involved comparing the neighborhoods I live in or near to where I love to vacation. This post will note that there’s been a recent change to my Noe Valley neighborhood.

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I reported on Phoenix Books which has since changed hands, and is now called Folio Books (3957 24th St). Folio specializes in new and remaindered books, and is working to fill its shelves since opening the first of October, 2013. They’ve already set up an extensive children’s section, given that Noe Valley is full of young couples with kids in strollers. Glad to see that 24th Street has retained a full service bookstore.
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This blog will also now feature some of my own pictures/jpegs. I recently purchased a Canon PowerShot ELPH 130 IS and I’m just getting used to working with it. That doesn’t mean I won’t stop doing what everybody else does and steal the pics here from the web. But I will intersperse these appropriated photos with my own.

Enjoy.

Posted in independent bookstores, life, Noe Valley, Paris of the West, San Francisco | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

San Francisco, Paris of the West, part 2

Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 14, 2013

The-Dinosaur-One
In an alternate evolutionary scenario, the asteroid that slammed into the Earth some 66 million years ago to create the Chicxulub crater, enshroud the planet in a decades long “nuclear winter,” cause the extinction of non-avian dinosaurs, and bring about the rise of the mammals never happened. The large dinosaurs grew bigger, more competitive and fewer, leading to the virtual extinction of all their smaller cousins and competing mammals. Then, in a further evolutionary twist, a handful of ultra-dinosaurs developed and all but wiped out the large dinosaurs, leaving only a scattering of small dinosaurs and mammals to survive across a gutted planet.

The somewhat flawed analogy here is to bookstores.

When I was growing up, and aside from paperback book racks in every drugstore and mom-and-pop bookshops, small, medium and large bookstores abounded. Then came the book chains—the Pickwicks, Crown, B Daltons, Borders, and Barnes & Nobles. Following Marx’s inescapable logic of capitalist competition, the bookstore chains grew and competed and killed each other off, until only two monopolies remained; Borders and Barnes & Nobles. In the process, virtually all the smaller bookstores disappeared or were done in. When I last visited NYC, Barnes & Noble was on every other block, and bookstores like Forbidden Planet had been unceremoniously killed off. Then, Amazon, the mega-monopoly, arose. Borders bit the dust, and sickly Barnes & Nobles is holding on by a thread. In the cracks left by this “free market” debacle, there are still small bookstores left, but they are non-existent in some places, and few and far between in other locations.

SanFrancisco
So now we’re in the present, both here in San Francisco and in Paris. Paris first. As I posted below, there are three well-known English-language bookstores in Paris, and the San Francisco Book Company has kindly provided this link to a list of some 240 plus bookstores in the 6th Arrondissemont alone. In Paris, France, where the bourgeoisie rose to power and ushered in modern capitalism, chain bookstores are held at bay and independent bookshops of all sizes and shapes are alive and well.

Not so in San Francisco. Borders is gone, and Barnes & Noble has been reduced to four stores scattered in Bay Area cities immediately surrounding San Francisco. In the process of the demise of these two monopolies, a number of other local independent bookstores went belly up; Stacy’s, Clean Well Lighted, Cody’s… Amidst the carnage however, small indie bookstores have survived and some still thrive in the Bay Area. In my three neighborhoods, three bookstores of note pursue differing strategies for survival.

booksmith
In the Haight, and aside from the very limited, anarchist specific Bound Together Books, there’s Booksmith. Booksmith is a full-service, full-hour, full-inventory destination bookshop that is a wonder to browse. It’s a stand alone bookstore with book events, author signings, literature readings, etc.

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Phoenix Books in Noe Valley is part of a small, local, one-owner chain of used bookstores that also sells new books. This indie chain includes Alley Cat Books, Badger Books, and Dog-Eared Books. Phoenix survived the death of Cover-to-Cover and the Mystery Bookstore in Noe Valley and was recently sold to a local buyer to keep the rest of the chain solvent. Unfortunately, Zoltar, the gypsy fortune teller, will not be staying.

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Finally, there’s Books, Inc in the Castro/Eureka Valley neighborhood; gay-oriented, but still very much a full-service bookstore that weathered the death of A Different Light bookstore. Books Inc is an example of a mini-chain that is bigger than just San Francisco. Bay Area wide, Books Inc is a regional success story, with stores at SFO, the Ferry Building and surrounding cities, that hasn’t gotten too big for its britches. It also has book events, author readings and signings, and the like.

Books Inc is part of IndieBound, a consortium of independent bookstores which uses Kobo, the ebook reader as an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. I own a Kobo, and I’m proud to support local, independent bookstores.

Posted in Barnes & Noble, Bay Area, Books Inc, Booksmith, Borders Books, Bound Together Books, Chicxulub and dinosaur extinction, City of Light, Eureka Valley, Haight-Ashbury, independent bookstores, IndieBound, Kobo, life, Noe Valley, Paris, Paris of the West, Phoenix Books, San Francisco, San Francisco Book Company, series | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »