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Book Soup And Vroman’s Book Stores Up For Sale, Owner Vows “No National Retail Chains”

Cultural landmarks Book Soup and Vroman’s book store in Pasadena are for sale.

Vroman’s is the oldest book store in Southern California, founded in 1895 and still owned by the same family. Owner Joel Sheldon announced on social media Thursday that both stores and another Vroman’s in Hastings Ranch are on the block, along with Book Soup in West Hollywood. Sheldon, age 80, said he was retiring after 50 years of book selling.

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“Vroman’s deserves new ownership with the vision, energy, and commitment necessary to take it successfully into the future,” Sheldon wrote on the store’s social media accounts. Although the sale invokes “a time of some uncertainty,” he also said he had “optimism and excitement for what the future can bring for Vroman’s and our community.”

Sheldon told the Pasadena Star-News that 123 employees are at the Pasadena location, with 13 in Hastings Ranch and 18 at Book Soup, the latter a unionized shop that has been in negotiations with Sheldon.

“We will take the time needed to find the right new ownership — someone who shares our core values and who is committed to preserving Vroman’s as a community treasure,” the statement continued. It added the hope to “avoid any kind of disruption” to customers and employees.

Book Soup has been around since 1975 in West Hollywood and is arguably one of the cultural hot spots in the greater Los Angeles area. It was bought by Vroman’s 15 years ago. Both are independent book stores, an increasingly small part of the publishing industry dominated by major chains and particularly Amazon.com.

Both stores have held readings by top Hollywood stars, politicians, and prominent authors, including Muhammad Ali, Annie Leibovitz, Bill Clinton, Norman Mailer, Hunter S. Thompson and many more. Book Soup has been used frequently for film and TV locations and many production houses have accounts.

It is unclear if either bookstore owns its buildings or land. The issue is particularly important for Book Soup, which is in an area that has been heavily redeveloped.

Sheldon told the Pasadena Star-News that he will not sell to “national retail chains.”

“We want someone who really appreciates Vroman’s and wants to continue it as a community resource,” he told the Star-News. “So we’ll start with local people — maybe a family or group of younger people who would really look forward to this.”

When speaking with LAist, Sheldon elaborated, saying he’s looking for “a local individual with business skills, and probably some wealth.”

“Our goal is to maintain business as usual and do our best to avoid any kind of disruption to our customers or employees,” Sheldon added.

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