|photo by David Allen|
Brand Bookshop is one of my favorites, both for what it is and where it is. It’s a great used bookstore, open since 1985, with personality and a deep selection of 100,000 books. And it’s located on Brand Boulevard in Glendale, the downtown drag, with shops and restaurants all around and, across the street, the grand 1925 Art Deco Alex Theatre and a second used bookstore, Book Fellows. Best block in SoCal? Well, it’s not, but it’s in the running.
Brand, alas, is closing next month. Owner Jerome Joseph, who’s in his 80s, suffered a fall last year and can no longer run the business, according to a sad story in the Glendale News-Press, and his son, Noriaki Nakano, who’s 66, is ready to retire.
The store, at 231 N. Brand, never really made the transition to the Internet age, and up until a year or two ago still contacted customers (like me) by postcard to announce sales. I only visited once a year or so, but I usually bought something and sometimes sold something.The interesting point is one of the self-confessed fans of the store has only visited every year or so - which could be construed as anything from once every year to once every year and a half - and he usually - which might mean - say two out of every three visits - over a two to three year period - he bought... something. Now I am, of course, grossly extrapolating what he said - but at most - by his own account - he might have bought some books something like twice over a 2 to 3 year period. (And I am even worse. After I gave up my car when I moved Downtown from Malibu, my trips to Brand dropped from once a month to zero trips in over ten years.)
Allen's numbers are, unfortunately, likely typical of many used book store customers, particularly those who do not live in the store's immediate neighborhood (I do not know where David Allen lives, but his newspaper is located in Ontario) - and those who have reached an age where their supply of books has long exceeded their places to neatly store them.
That's why larger vintage bookstores need to reach out to customers from an increasingly wider geographic area to maintain a steady patronage and they need to make their stores not just literary hubs but also social gathering points where you might find people who could prove to be as interesting as the books you are finding. And every bookstore of any kind also needs to reach out to the younger generations who are still discovering new things they want to learn about - and who, even more importantly, still have room for books on their bookshelves.