Sunday, June 24, 2007

A rare treasure will soon be extinct

Heritage Book Shop, a West Hollywood fixture prized by collectors of antiquarian volumes throughout the world, is closing.
Los Angeles, and the country at large, have been losing bookstores lately to forces that have become familiar in the trade: rising rents, competition from national retail chains and the discounts offered by online booksellers.
Yet the latest casualty has come not from financial failure but from a combination of success and a stroke of luck — for the owners of Heritage Book Shop, at least. The Melrose Avenue fixture has been considered one of the finest and most lucrative antiquarian bookstores in the country. And although business continues to boom, the bookstore has been made an offer it cannot refuse.
"It was sudden for me," said Ben Weinstein, one of the two Brooklyn-born brothers who moved the shop to West Hollywood two decades ago after they had run a thrift store in Compton and bookstores on Hollywood Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard. This spring, the building was sold to a local businessman, and the ink is still drying on a separate sale of the $10 million or so in inventory to an as-yet-undisclosed auction house.
To the extent that this world-famous shop was a presence in L.A., it was more directly connected to the luxury trade, and to Hollywood money, than to the city's literary life. An unofficial poll of scholars, writers and local book lovers shows almost no experiences with the place, and some of those who have been there associate the place with brusque treatment.
But when the TV show "Frasier" wrapped in 2004, the show's producers bought nearly 20 going-away presents for cast and crew, Weinstein said — all books priced from $5,000 to $10,000.
Although Heritage does not discuss its clientele, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Michael Ovitz are known to be rare book collectors or gifters. Winona Ryder once gave Martin Scorsese a 19th-century manuscript purchased at Heritage. Sarah Michelle Gellar is a regular at the shop and calls it "my church." Mitch Glazer and other top-tier screenwriters are also known to collect rare books, sometimes based on the novels or time periods they've adapted. ( more from LAtimes )

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