The Los Angeles indie bookstore scene is buzzing—from the Valley to Downey, from the mountains to the beach. Recently, 3RP got a chance to talk to the folks behind one of the legends of the LA book scene: Vroman’s in Pasadena.
In a city where everything seems to be new, Vroman’s has been a mainstay since 1894, and is Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore. It currently boasts two locations, both in Pasadena, including the main store at 695 E. Colorado Blvd. and an outlet store at 3729 E. Foothill Blvd (Hastings Ranch).
The story behind how Vroman’s is still standing—and more important than ever—is fascinating. We sat down with Vroman’s CEO Julia Cowlishaw recently to talk about this vibrant literary institution. Special thanks to Avery Grove for her assistance with this interview.
TRP: Vroman’s has been around since 1894, thanks to original owner Adam Clark Vroman, who passed the bookstore down to longtime employees. What’s the story behind this interesting legacy?
Julia Cowlishaw: Adam Clark Vroman did not have any descendants. As part of his estate, he made it possible for some of his employees to purchase shares in the store. One of those employees was his godson and the current owners are part of that family.
TRP: Many bookstores were changed during the pandemic. How did COVID affect Vroman’s Bookstore, and in what ways did you overcome those obstacles?
JC: Due to the shut down, we had to become an online shopping business almost overnight! It was hard but we are fortunate to have a group of very dedicated employees who helped us make it through.
TRP: You host many readings and events, anything special in the books for Vroman’s?
JC: Our event program is ramping back up and we have so many to choose from, I can’t really choose a favorite. [Editor: check out Vroman’s extensive upcoming event calendar here.]
TRP: Vroman’s is a Pasadena institution, and a staple in the Southern California literary community. How does this bookstore interact with the community and what does this community look like?
JC: We interact with our community in so many ways including all the usual: social media, website, events, classes, and partnerships. Our community looks like Los Angeles County: a creative multitude of people from a huge variety of backgrounds, cultures, and interests, all mingling together.
TRP: Since its opening, Vroman’s has been known for all of its philanthropic efforts. Is Vroman’s continuing those efforts today and for what causes?
JC: The Vroman’s Gives Back program is in full swing and contributes to over twenty local non-profit organizations annually. Since inception VGB has donated over $800,000 to our community. We also partner with schools and additional non-profits to support their organizations through donations, shopping nights and bookfairs.
TRP: How can Los Angeles natives and other booklovers get more involved with Vroman’s in the future?
JC: Come visit us! We’re open to new ideas and love to share our love of books and reading.
All photos (c) Copyright Russell Gearhart, courtesy of Vroman's Bookstore.Share This!