Bye-bye, Brand Bookshop


Brand Bookshop is one of my favorites, both for what it is and where it is. It’s a great used bookstore, open since 1985, with personality and a deep selection of 100,000 books. And it’s located on Brand Boulevard in Glendale, the downtown drag, with shops and restaurants all around and, across the street, the grand 1925 Art Deco Alex Theatre and a second used bookstore, Book Fellows. Best block in SoCal? Well, it’s not, but it’s in the running.

Brand, alas, is closing next month. Owner Jerome Joseph, who’s in his 80s, suffered a fall last year and can no longer run the business, according to a sad story in the Glendale News-Press, and his son, Noriaki Nakano, who’s 66, is ready to retire.

The store, at 231 N. Brand, never really made the transition to the Internet age, and up until a year or two ago still contacted customers (like me) by postcard to announce sales. I only visited once a year or so, but I usually bought something and sometimes sold something.

Joseph was a bookstore owner of the old school. He knew his stock well and had a quick wit and a sharp tongue. He referred to employees, even his son, in gentlemanly fashion as Mr. or Ms.

“Mr. Nakano!” he would call out. “Do we have” — and he would name a title. “We do, Mr. Joseph,” his son might say.

A small touch, but the store sold handmade bookmarks made from laminated foreign postage stamps. I think they sold for $1 from a basket in front of the register; Joseph once gave me one with my purchase. It’s lovely (see picture at bottom) and I still use it.

One that got away: a vintage slipcased set of the then-three “Dune” novels by Frank Herbert was on the paperback SF shelves about three years ago for $15, or maybe $12. I saw it, thought about it, walked away. Ten minutes later, having persuaded myself, I walked back to claim it and it was already gone.

One example of the store’s personality: the copious number of categories. The LA Times says a master list was available at the counter and bore “1,500 highly curated categories,” citing a few: Papacy & Vatican, ESP, General Military Aviation, Sea Adventures, Gold Rush and Shrubbery. The ones I loved were in the sociology area, side by side on the same shelf: Hoboes and Elitism and the Rich (see below).

Passing by on the 101 on June 5, I stopped at Brand for old times’ sake. Books are 50 percent off the marked price. Shelves were starting to empty, although they still had tens of thousands, and to slip into alphabetical disarray.

I didn’t buy anything as I’m on a book diet, but I’m glad to have stopped in to say goodbye to paths I have trod many times: graphic novels to classics to science fiction to mystery to fiction and then through the doorway to the store’s far side: books on books, humor, music and California. In retrospect I wish I’d bought a second bookmark.

Bookfellows (238 N. Brand) is arguably superior, at least for genre reading, and I’ll still visit it on days when the Alex (216 N. Brand) screens a classic I want to see, but I’ll miss having that other store, Brand Bookshop, the third leg of a great cultural triangle.




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  • Joanne Dallas

    We have to face the transition. My grand kids will never know the delight of spending hours scanning used bookshelves. I’m sorry you missed out on the”Dune” collection. I really do feel your pain over any lost treasure. Right now my own bookshelves are dusty and full. I think I’ll go to my back room library and sniff some books.

    • davidallen909

      Nothing like the musty, rotting smell of paper, and I mean that in the best possible way.

      • Joanne Dallas

        It brings back memories of the joy of reading. Foxing is my favorite sign of decay.

  • Doug Evans

    I love all your posts that have to do with books, but this one made me a little sad as well, even if it’s not necessarily monetary reasons prompting this family to close up shop. Since I buy probably a couple of eBooks a month, I’m part of the problem causing these shops to become more and more extinct, but there’s nothing like the feeling of walking into a used bookstore and knowing I’ve got hours (if not money) to spend.

    I like that phrase “book diet”! That’s what I should be on. Every so often I’ll cull my bookshelves and take a stack to Magic Door Used Books or whatnot, but I always end up exchanging for store credit and walking out with more books.

    Related: I loved your post about your book-reading pillow! (Commenting here because I never commented on that post.) I had one of those pillows too as a kid. Now I just stuff my pillows around me, read two sentences, and fall asleep. All part of getting old. That, and regular print is getting too small for me to read. I’m only 45, body!

    And… I still have my original four-book Dune slipcased set I got for Christmas back in the ’80s… (four books because it includes “God Emperor of Dune”). All the books are pretty beat up, as is the case itself, so it’s probably not worth much, but it’s sentimental.

  • J. Nathaniel Berke

    Brand Bookstore was my City Lights. I spend many hours there and lots of money. When it came time to shoot my first film, An Unkindness of Ravens, I needed a bookstore and Brand was first on my list. Actually I didn’t need a list because as soon as I asked Jerome he said “sure!” One of my fondest professional memories was eating catered chicken parm at 3AM in the back of the store when we were shooting one night. Will miss this place.

  • John Clifford

    You made it into LA Observed blog ( and they even plugged your book!!

    • davidallen909

      Yeah, that was cool to see!