695 E. Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101
This is the largest and oldest bookstore in Southern California, and by largest I mean nearly Powell’s large, and by oldest I mean it opened its doors in 1894. The folks at Skylight Books in L.A. turned me on to it. In fact, they insisted I drive the thirty minutes to Pasadena.
Well, they did me a favor. Vroman’s just about floored me when I drove past, parked, and walked in. It sits smack dab in the middle of downtown Pasadena, with a cafe, and a newsstand, and an annex for nothing but sidelines, and two floors of books, and ceramic animals, and customers, and a dedicated event section, and a kids section, and did I mention customers? 30,000 square feet. Three locations in Pasadena.
Vroman’s oldest customer is a woman who is ninety and who comes in every day. She has been shopping here since she was five. This store is what the strongest indies should strive for: it’s a constant in the life of the community. In fact, Vroman’s gives back to that community with donations to organizations that their customers choose.
And with 124 employees over three stores, this is one of the biggest employers I’ve visited. They host 350 events a year, including a summer series and a summer edge series that features Jazz on Sundays and has become a destination spot for the Pasadena residents.
Employees can take part in enrichment, and customers can take part in profit sharing.
You know, I think this is a store that illustrates what happens over time when a store’s identity is meshed into the life of the surrounding community. These guys should be presenting panels at book seller’s conferences around the country.