Vroman’s in Pasadena and Book Soup in West Hollywood are two of Southern California’s best known bookstores. Though they’re located in very different communities, each one plays a central role in the life of the city. This is why, in late September, Vroman’s sent a shudder through the world of Southern California’s readers when the 126 year old bookstore announced it was at risk of closing due to the effects of the pandemic. In an extraordinary bit of outreach, Vroman’s asked its community to shop early and often for the holidays and to recommend the store by word of mouth. The situation has since stabilized, but the risk remains.
In the third part of our “Art of Bookselling” series, Air/Light editor David L. Ulin talks to Julia Cowlishaw, the CEO of Vroman’s and Book Soup. Cowlishaw and Ulin discuss the issues facing independent booksellers in the world of COVID-19, how she approaches managing two very different bookstores, and more.