Occupying an old bank building in downtown Los Angeles on the corner of 5th and Spring in the Old Bank District, stands The Last Bookstore — a magnificent tribute to the printed word, waiting for souls to get lost in its plethora of used books and vinyl records.
The Last Bookstore is the brainchild of Josh Spencer, who initially started the business from a loft in 2005 as an online bookstore. He moved to 4th and Main in December 2009 where he opened his first store. A year and a half later, in the summer of 2011, the current location became available and Spencer and his books and records took over 10,000 square feet of the building — and then several months later added 6,000 more feet.
The mammoth store inhabits an old bank building and is part of the gentrification of the “new” downtown which is fast becoming an urban city center, much like a smaller New York City.
Restaurateurs are flocking to open trendy eateries; modern lofts are being constructed and re-imagined in old architectural apartments; executives in suits walk to work amongst hipsters, the working class, and the homeless. The streets are a colorful amalgamation of the senses, and The Last Bookstore fits right in as a perfect blend of old and new.
Bookworm or not, there is something for everyone. Enter through the double doors and be taken away on a journey through a magical two-level kingdom, housing a total of over 200,000 books. Ninety-nine percent of the books are used, with the majority under five dollars. Continue on and venture through the labyrinth on the second level, which alone contains over 100,000 books priced at one dollar each. Further transport to another world by exploring the hidden rooms and bank vaults. Buy a book and relax on a crimson leather sofa with a cup of coffee from the bookstore’s lower level shop.
Grand pillars stretch up to the ornate and majestic ceilings, which tower above endless rows of books. Every nook and cranny in The Last Bookstore holds a distinct fascination. Eclectic art pieces adorn the walls and studios serve as open exhibits where artists can often be found working. A few days a week, free events such as open mic nights, poetry slams, book readings, and music performances are held on the lower level stage.
There is something special about used books. Perhaps, it is the mystery that lies within each book’s unique past—the hands it has been in, the cities it has passed through, the bodies that have clutched it close, and the minds that have been immersed in its inked pages.
With the closure of brick and mortar bookstores and the proliferation of online stores and e-books, The Last Bookstore is a precious treasure that embraces hard copy books by paying homage to the printed word.
The Last Bookstore is off the beaten path of the San Fernando Valley, but well worth the time to take a short trip to downtown Los Angeles.
lastbookstorela.com, 453 S.Spring St, Ground Floor, Downtown LA 213.488.0599, Mon-Thurs: 10 a.m.-10 p.m.. Fri-Sat: 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sun: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Check the calendar for events.
Rachel Dahan is a Studio City resident and in 11th grade at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills. This article first appeared in the NCJHS school newspaper, The Prowler.