Acres Of Books Turns The Page
Photos by Lori Nyx for LAist
Put down that mouse for a second and take a deep breath. Imagine yourself in a cavernous bookstore, wandering through endless stacks in search of the rare and the wonderful. Drink in the eclectic surroundings, the musty scent of wood, paper and 5 decades of history. How did you get here? Maybe you just happened to be passing the quaint 30's era store front and felt the need to do a little treasure hunting or to have a chat with the friendly and (gasp!) knowledgeable person behind the counter, who, incidentally, greets you by name. After all, you've been shopping here since childhood. Relax. There's no hurry or rush. No sales Nazis to rattle your reverie. Browsing and reading is encouraged. No doubt, you'll bump into like minds playing hide and seek among the shelves. New friendships will be struck up over a favorite genre or, with any luck, potential dates. Even if you're not in the market for a particular title, you won't be leaving empty handed. There's always an amazing writer to discover or some bizarre compendium that must go home with you—at bargain prices! Thirsty? Grab a little light refreshment while you shop, particularly if there is some in-store reading, art show or open mic going on in the Music Room. The manager might even ask you to perform yourself or agree to sell your chapbook on a handshake. And of course, you can't leave without petting the store kitty and picking up the local free papers and event flyers.
Sound like a fantasy in this world of point, click and Paypal? Well, it's not, for the time being. Just such a place has flourished in downtown Long Beach for 40 odd years, but I am sad to say that its days are now officially numbered. Those of you from the LBC (or who read the LA Times'article) already know that Bertram Smith's "legendary" Acres of Books has lost its landmark location at 240 Long Beach Blvd to redevelopement. If you cried when Duttons went down, grab your towels, cause this one truly marks an end of an era.
Instead of gnashing my teeth and pulling out hair, I'd rather show you what I appreciate the most (and will certainly miss) about my very favorite bookstore and the community that it supports. Click on the images and make a virtual visit!
Out of the loop? Here's the abridged version. The Smith family have been booksellers in Long Beach for over 70 years, bringing much joy to hungry minds. Their store, "Acres", is truly that, a 12,000 sq ft building that houses near a million used, new, rare and collectible titles. But this barn of a building is much more than a place to pick up a paperback. It's a vibrant community, a culture based on a shared passion for the written and spoken word. Far from pretentious, its comfortable, funky, "anything goes" atmosphere encourages intellectual discourse and (god bless 'em) the unapologetic flying of freak flags. Hurrah!
Before you grab your picket signs, know that there are no Blue Meanies to battle. In an open letter to their customers, the very cool Phil and Jackie Smith say that although they had no choice but to deal, the city has treated them in a fair and business like manner and that they are ready to move along. They also hint at plans for relocation and though we know it will never be the same, loyal patrons are praying that Acres will rise again. However, according to the Times, it appears that relocation plans are not so certain after all and though the business is allowed to stay just shy of another year, it's more likely the doors will be closing sooner. Damn it, I hate cliffhangers, especially if they lead to unhappy endings. One thing for certain is that there are only months left to experience this grand old bookstore and if you've never visited or haven't in a while, make haste!
I'll stop now before I begin ranting about the evils of redevelopment, Republican regimes, corporate interests and the Borg...uh, I mean Amazon.com. (Don't even get me started on the death of mom and pop record shops.) Still, as times grinds our friendly neighborhood cool-store-to-hang-out-in to dust, we must make note, give credit, mourn the loss and of course, continue to support what remains. As for Acres, let's keep positive and hope that the chapter won't end here.
Acres of Books
240 Long Beach Blvd.,
Long Beach CA 90802.
Hours: M-F, 10am-6pm, Sat. 10am-9pm, Sun. 10am-5pm. (Event times differ.)