Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wilshire Books Remaindered! Book Store Closing Major Civic Loss!

Kevin over at LAO brings the sad news that Lee has shuttered Wilshire Books in Santa Monica - the finest bookstore - book for book - of any bookstore I have ever been anywhere in the world. It was the Norton Simon of bookstores.

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!"

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Brady, this is a wonderful piece on Wilshire Books. Thank you so much for posting this. I have been going there for over 17 years since I first arrived in LA. Leigh became a really good friend of mine and I was just devastated when I heard he was going to pack up and move. He now lives in Ventura and was putting his books in a warehouse to possibly sell them on the internet in the future. The rent was going up and the area just didn't have much foot traffic anymore. Most of my book collection came from his store and I will miss him dearly. He was there for almost 40 years so that must be some kind of record for LA! Kathy

Anonymous said...

I decided to treat myself to a stop at Wilshire Books this past Saturday and found it empty. I always assumed it would be there for me when I needed a book fix. It was devastating to me. I mourn this loss. The majority of my books came from there. I will not look at Wilshire Blvd the same. Now, where will all of us used book junkies go? It was the best book store ever.
I'm sad - Book Missie

janice said...

Hi to all our Wilshire Books fans.

I am Leigh's wife - Janice Tieken - and writing for Leigh who does not 'do computer'. It was a painful decision to close the store but became necessary as it was costing more to stay open than it was bringing in. I will show Leigh these compliments and I know he will be pleased.

We are now fighting with a company called IDEARC created by Verizon to 'handle' their yellow page ads. Before they invented IDEARC there would be an annual renewal process with a live human. Leigh had no intention to renew inasmuch as he was going out of business. He had never heard of IDEARC and had no agreement with them but bills started coming in last June. They insist he agreed to endless renewals and billings with no right to cancel and further we must pay them hundreds of dollars before we can 'apply' for 'out of business relief'; this must be notarized under penalty of perjury and/or be by a lawyer and if pertinent include a death certificate. Then after up to 45 days of studying our application to be considered out of business they will determine if we are really out of business - but we must pay first. Even though they provided the now out-of-service phone! The bills are doubling and tripling as we e-speak. They have sicced lawyers and credit bureaus on us.

There are hundreds of similar complaints about this company on the internet but apparently it is legal for corporations to declare you have a contract when you do not. They are based in Texas, Verizon's CEO is in NYC, their lawyers are in Ohio and our phone was in Santa Monica. A quagmire.

Anyone with any ideas please feel free to write to us if only to commiserate. We have tried the BBB and the attorney general in Texas and so on. This is a monstrous scam and deceptive business practice aimed at small businesses who they expect will give in rather than fight. They are the Goliath and we will do everything in our power to fight back, but given the state of our country and the fact that corporations rule, we may never get relief from this nightmare.

Thanks for all the kind words about the wonderful bookstore that Leigh created that lasted for 39 years.

Janice (and Leigh)
The best email address for us for now is: livingmuseum (at) earthlink.net
You can use wilshire books in the subject line to make it easy to de-spam it.

David Lang said...

For the past 32 years (since coming to LA), whenever I wanted to know more about a new topic, such as British history after the Victorian era, or wooden sailing boats, or metabolic disorders, or European modern architecture between the world wars, to name just a few, I would drive over to Wilshire Books. And my thirst for knowledge would be reliably quenched. This past sunday, I wanted to know more about Sufi practices and the poems of Rumi. So as before, I jumped into the car, my expectations high, relishing the experience that awaited me at Wilshire Books. I imagined browsing the dark narrow aisles, following my curiousity from shelf to shelf. All the while the sound of good-natured conversation or, if you were lucky, vintage jazz in the background. Leigh or one of the others who kept us company (for that's what it felt like) would give me the sense that I was visiting a good friend's private library.
But alas, no more. I'm feeling a sadness that will not go away. We have lost something beyond a mere used book store.

vinceoneal said...

THIS IS STUPID FOR ME TO WRITE BUT I MUST.
---
MY WIFE AND I MOVED TO THE "WILSHIRE BOOKS NIEGHBORHOOD" ABOUT 25 YEARS AGO AND THEN WE,IN TIME, MOVED AWAY.
---
TODAY, A BRIGHT SUNDAY, I WAS BACK IN THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD - AND OF COURSE THE MORNING WOULD HAVE BEEN INCOMPLETE WITHOUT A VISIT TO THIS MOST WONDERFUL OF ALL BOOK STORES.
---
THE SHOCK OF THE EMPTY ROOM AS I LOOKED THROUGH THE WINDOW PAST THE 'FOR LEAST' SIGN. THE SHOCK. SO SMALL THE ROOM ,,,SO BIG WAS THE HEART.
I ASSUME WONDERFUL THINGS WILL ALWAYS REMAIN IN PLACE WAITING THERE...FOR -ME-.
---
OF COURSE, GRACIOUSLY I SAID THANK YOU THE LAST TIME I WAS IN THE STORE; AS I HAD ALWAYS DONE.(AND I'M UNCOMFORTABLE WITH THE WORD "STORE" HERE...BUT ALAS)
---
...BUT A LEAST FOR ME I AM TAUGHT AGAIN: LEAVE NOTHING UNAPPRECIATED TODAY; NOTHING.
VINCE O'NEAL
9/20/09

Joshua said...

Hi Vince,

I loved Wilshire Books too, and also miss it terribly. Like the death of a dear friend, the loss remains. I have one photo of the inside of the store, looking straight in from the front door, which I took about a year before it closed. I have to find it but I'll post it here, if I can.

Wilshire Books was one of my favorite places in LA for about 30 years. I can walk through that store in my memory.

Joshua

Brady Westwater said...

I've never figured out how to post photos - but email it to me at bradywestwater@gmail.com - and I will see if I can post it.

Anonymous said...

I'm 32 years old, and live in Portland, Oregon now, but part of me will dwell at Wilshire Books forever, as it will dwell in me. I grew up in those aisles. That place was the closest thing I've had my whole life to "church".