By Morgan Jakobcic
On the not so quiet street of Colorado in Pasadena, sits the oldest and largest independent bookstore Southern California has to offer its residents: Vroman’s Bookstore. The shop was opened in 1894 (125 years old this year) by Adam Clark Vroman. From those who knew him, he was a generous and caring man who had a passion for helping the community he lived in. Upon his death, he left his store to a long time employee whose family still runs the shop. Walking into the store, customers are greeted by lanterns and warm tones on the wall along with the smell of coffee. To their right, there is the entrance to The Next Chapter cafe where patrons are either eagerly chatting away about the books they just bought or reading them. The rest of the room is lined with books from the ground up; a bibliophile’s dream come true. The walls offer them the standard selection of books: eastern philosophy to photography to literary criticism to local authors. However, books are not the only thing this store has to offer, they have pins, cups, journals, totes, socks, coasters, stationary, toys, games, and just about any other trinket you could think of. I brought my Mom with me to visit the store, she found herself laughing at all the clever magnets they had on display. The store isn’t just meant for the book lovers; it’s for people who enjoy exploring.
Wandering through the store, I found people sitting in between the shelves with a book in hand reading at their own pace, almost as if they were at home. Others whispering to the person they were with telling them why the book they are holding is the best one of all time, well at least, I imagine. It could have been the worst as well, I suppose. The aisles are wide enough to accommodate several people at once without being crowded or feeling rushed out of it. I even found a couple dogs littered throughout the shop while I wandered through, a very pleasing sight. Another novelty I found throughout the store were laminated cards hanging off the edge of the shelves. Each one advocating for the book they were placed under and signed by a Vroman’s employee as a stamp of approval from the shop.
And that was just the first floor. Walking up to the second level, patrons will find Vroman’s Art on the Stairwell display where they hang with original pieces of artwork by local artists. The artist currently featured is Anto Jimenez, who is a Mexican-American artist who works with many mediums. Her pieces are vibrant and smoothly transition the store from the world of adults into a child’s. Up here, the room is full of light and decorated with colorful paper boats that are hung on the ceiling. It is also louder up here; parents are reading to their kids. I overhear a parent asking their child what book they want for this week, lucky kid. Among the many choices they have, Vroman’s offers mystery books. They are the last copies of books they have in the store that are wrapped with a few words describing what the book has to offer the kids (or adults, who are they to judge).
After taking a leisurely lap around the store, I was back under the lanterns that had greeted me. I had ten minutes to get back to my car before the pay lot “security” fined me but it felt like I had only been in the store for few minutes. But, there were still people standing between the shelves flipping through the pages of books in front of them. And the smell of coffee that had disappeared while exploring upstairs made its presence known again. It’s odd to think that this store has been around for over a 125 years; but then again, bookstores have a way of capturing anyone’s fascination.
Vroman’s Bookstore. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vromansbookstore.com/