|Josh Spencer of The Last Bookstore in the Labyrinth's Book Tunnel||Photo by Ryan Orange|
Three factors have made The Last Bookstore both a successful business at a time so many other bookstores are closing and a creative institution that is drawing fans from all over the world. Josh's unique artistic vision of how the space looks and how the space functions as a community gathering center (for Downtown and all of Los Angeles as well as, increasingly, the greater international book community) - and Josh's ability to craft a business plan that allows the store to sell books at affordable prices and still remain a viable, sustainable business.
Here is the opening of the story:
One of the fascinating Angelenos featured in L.A. Weekly's People 2014 issue. Check out our entire People 2014 issue.For the rest of the story go to LA Weekly's website.
When Josh Spencer first moved into the neighborhood, he saw quite a few unexpected things: "Dead bodies in the street, people shooting up outside my door. I saw so many blowjobs on the street, too."
It might be hard to believe Spencer is talking about the much-traversed blocks around Spring and Fifth Street in downtown L.A., much less that the era he's describing was just nine years ago. But as the owner of the Last Bookstore, Spencer has done as much as anyone to catalyze downtown's renaissance.
Modest to a fault, the soft-spoken Kentucky native chalks it all up to good luck. Selling books and other things on eBay had long been his business plan - until he got tired of his apartment "looking like a permanent garage sale" and decided to focus on books. Then, a cheap commercial space opened up across from his apartment in 2009, and he bowed to friendly local pressure for a brick-and-mortar store.
"It was on a short lease, so I could experiment," Spencer says. His contractor father flew in from Hawaii and they set up the place in 10 days.
But the shop quickly outgrew the space. Someone suggested a larger location just a block away, a 10,000-square-foot former bank. Spencer recalls visiting the empty building: "I would just sit there and imagine it: the high ceilings, the columns, the immensity of it. I was enthralled." He finished the designs and called his dad again.