July 2, 2013
Los Angeles’s oldest bookstore closing after more than a century in business
by Nick Davies
Not every struggling bookstore, unfortunately, can find a savior to bring it back to life like the Kingston Bookery. Today we bring you sadder news, of Williams’ Book Store in the San Pedro neighborhood of Los Angeles, which is shutting its doors after 104 years in business. The Daily Breeze’s Donna Littlejohn reports that despite an outpouring of support from the community, owner Jerry Gusha will have to shut down at some point after August 6.
Williams’ Book Store was opened in 1909 by Welsh immigrant E.T. Williams, and has been a neighborhood landmark for years. Local customers are lamenting the loss, including Norma Munger, who gets all her books from the store and said, “Part of my life will be gone.” Helen Cooper said of the closing, “It breaks my heart that this store is closing, it just breaks my heart. I was a little kid when this store was down the street.” Some locals even organized a cash mob last Friday to bring in a crowd and help keep the bookstore afloat, but alas, at this point there doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid closing up shop. In fact, Gusha told Littlejohn that he probably should have done so two or three years ago.
“We knew it was coming,” he explained, “It’s been hard for a long time. We struggled to pay last month’s rent… I can’t pay my bills. I can’t get books.” Gusha’s mother, Anne Gusha, ran the store before him, so he grew up there, doing errands and pitching in part-time as a teenager. Looking back as far as the 1970s and 80s, he names some of the usual suspects when identifying the causes for the store’s decline—shopping malls, discount big box stores, Barnes and Noble, and most recently, Amazon.
Williams’ has made a concerted effort to support local authors by stocking their books and frequently hosting signings with them on the first Thursday of each month. Thanks in part to the groundswell of support from loyal customers, Gusha has promised that they will stay open through August 6 in order to participate in San Pedro’s 125th birthday.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.