I have spent thousands of hours of my life in book stores, from quaint mom and pop independents to giant chain stores. My heart aches a bit whenever I hear about a bookstore closing its doors for good, or see someone reading from an e-reader
or tablet instead of a proper paper and ink bound book. With every novel that’s downloaded on a Kindle or Nook, I feel like we’ve taken another small step toward the grave for the bookstores business
That’s why I was so delighted when I walked through the doors of downtown Los Angeles’ The Last Bookstore for the first time. In an era when so many bookstores are going the way of the Dodo bird (and record shops!), this store, which opened in 2011, is trying to keep the book selling trade alive. And it’s doing it with style. The Last Bookstore is an amazing space. First, it’s enormous, think cathedral instead of retail space. Second, its owner, Josh Spencer, has designed the store so you feel like you’re stepping into a different world when you walk in off of busy 5th Street.
He’s also trying to show how bookstores can survive and prosper in the digital age by becoming a community crossroads for their neighborhoods. The Last Bookstore does that by hosting musical performances, parties, community meetings, and, of course, poetry and book readings.
The Last Bookstore is located in an old bank building on the corner of 5th and Spring in DTLA. The massive floor space, tall columns and arched ceiling give it a cathedral-like feel. Along with selling books, the store’s also turned into a kind of community center for the growing downtown community, hosting musical performances, book and poetry readings, and neighborhood meetings.
More photos below:
Josh Spencer is the founder and owner of The Last Bookstore. His dream was to always open up a brick and mortar new and used bookstore, as an expression of his love for literature. He’s also designed the interior of the store, taking his inspiration from Steampunk and Hollywood movies. As you can see, Josh is wheelchair-bound, but he says that hasn’t been an obstacle when it comes to running the store. He worries more about just keeping his head above water financially.
The second-floor of The Last Bookstore is filled with design and decorating features, but the star attraction is this walk-through tunnel made from (what else?) books. Josh designed it himself with help from his dad.
The store is filled with folk art, antiques and just weird things, like this shelf with books taking flight. Harry Potter or Dr. Who would feel very much at home here.
The Last Bookstore is in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of downtown L.A. To make books avaialable to those who don’t have much money to spend, all the titles on the second floor, shown here are sold for a dollar.