Lee's selective buying - though curating is the more appropriate verb - of his collection - and it did feel more like a personal collection than a bookstore - made shopping there an education in itself, a voyeur's delight. A substantial part of my collection was purchased there over the years - and as my fortunes (and health) ebbed and waned - was also sold back to him - and then bought back from him.
And added to his unparalleled quality of stock - he also had the fairest prices in town - plus he paid the highest prices for his books. Now if that sounds contradictory - it isn't. By selling at a low price, he kept turning over his stock on a regular basis - and by buying back his own stock - he likely sold many books over and over through the years.
And whenever he found the odd treasure for a particular client - it would be waiting for us hidden away under his desk when we next came in - and always at a price right for our specific pocketbook.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons - I have not been there or seen Lee for a couple years and do not know how he is doing - so if anyone out there knows him - please let me know.
Here is part of Kevin's piece:
An LA Observed reader who works at Cal State Long Beach stopped by Wilshire Books in Santa Monica and found the store cleared out. "Quietly closed at the end of December," he writes. The store had been there since at least the 1970s, and I found one website that proclaimed, "The world's best bookstore is Wilshire Books, on Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, California. It is small and perfect in every way in which a bookstore ought to be perfect. Prices are fair, never more than accurate reflections of the market; frequently bargains." The review is so enthusiastic, let's hear more:
"Its shelves are fastidiously maintained in strict alphabetical order (something ordinarily unheard-of among used bookstores, most of which are dusty if not actually dirty, and whose stocks are rarely in any order at all).
It's a small room. If you go there in search of a particular title, you may be disappointed; but if you go looking for interesting books, you'll find plenty. The proprietor, Mr Lee Peffer, exercises his taste and discernment in purchasing stock: it's varied and lively. I get the feeling that I'm in a private library, except that everything's for sale!"