The Last Bookstore
A young man wanders through the aisles of the second floor of The Last Bookstore, scanning each bookcase as he slowly moves from one section to the next. His brow furrowed and his stare fixed, he periodically reaches for a used book from one of the misshapen shelves. After studying it, he sets it back in its place. He has yet to find a title to take home and his search never seems to narrow. He presses on through the daunting second level — a veritable Borgesian library — passes under an archway of books and pauses near an old vault filled with true crime and horror books. He continues on, threadlike, through the store’s paper labyrinth.
The Last Bookstore offers an interminable monument to the written word that challenges all comers to its protean depths. Much like Downtown LA itself, the bookstore welcomes all for a visit. However, like the neighborhood it calls home, each book bought or sold whittles a Downtowner’s chance to triumph over the place, as each visit to Downtown only reveals more to see and do.
Feeling as though the bookstore planted itself in Downtown decades ago, the young establishment manages to evoke a mature characteristic worthy of historical status. Everything was once used by another, which quickly adds artificial years. Indeed, most everything in The Last Bookstore fits the motif of prior use: the building formerly owned by a bank, the books by other hands, the city by the thousands before its current residents.
In an era of Kindles, Nooks, iPads and ebooks, the success of The Last Bookstore is an anomaly. While other independent bookshops closed their
doors due to the e-reader take-over, The Last Bookstore opened, expanded and thrived within its short five years of operation.
“A big part of the store’s success is Downtown and the Downtown community,” says store supervisor RJ Curtis.
At The Last Bookstore, computers do not assist the roaming bibliophile, people do. The Last Bookstore names their well-read staff members “Section Care Specialists,” and with the store carrying about 200,000 new and used titles, specialists they certainly become. Each of the store’s roughly twenty employees mentally logs each title in their section as it floats into the store from one reader and out the door with another.
About ninety percent of the books stuffed into the 10,000 square-foot, two-story building come pre-owned with soft edges and dog-eared corners and sit among the new books until sold.
Both Downtown LA and The Last Bookstore house the dilapidated and the polished side-by- side and continuously transform and expand— filling themselves with characters that evolve their already complex landscapes—but neither claim a conqueror.
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