'The End' is near at Brand Bookshop

The nearly 30-year story of the Brand Bookshop is in its final chapters as the business is expected to close sometime in September.

Noriaki Nakano, who manages the Brand Boulevard staple with his father, Jerome Joseph, announced several months ago that they both plan on retiring.

But the closing date was pushed back because there are still thousands of books on the tall shelves, most adorned with yellow cards bearing the names of a vast expanse of topics.

“We have 1,200 to 1,500 categories,” said Nakano.

And out of all them, the occult seems to remain the most sought-after topic.

“People are always curious about something new, something that ... you don’t talk often about,” Nakano said.

The shop also has been a place where kids could get copies of popular American classics for school for a couple of bucks.

Joseph, now 86, opened the bookstore in 1985 after he was inspired by the now-defunct Crown Bookstore down the street, Nakano said. Joseph teamed up with partner Larry Mullen and opened Brand Bookshop at the storefront previously occupied by Brand Jewelry.

Nakano joined the business in 1993 after Mullen left. He said he saw a lot of changes in the used book industry in the past two decades.

The store used to buy used books or accept them for trade, but that stopped as a result of the industry’s gradual slowing, Nakano said.

He blames some of that on the rise of book sales on the Internet, but admits he may eventually have to turn to the Web to liquidate leftover copies once the shop closes.

Nakano said he’ll probably sell his inventory to a warehouse company that buys books by the pound and sells them individually online.

“I have no interest in doing that myself,” he said. “The Internet business is boring, and you’re not dealing with people.”

Book talk with customers is something Nakano said he and Joseph have always enjoyed, and it’s what’s kept customers coming back.

Local resident Christian Swanson has patronized the store for the past 20 years to help build upon his collection of books on architecture.

In addition to a solid selection, he also appreciated the calls he got from Nakano and Joseph when they received books that they thought would spark his interest.

“They know what I’m looking for and they let me know when they get [a new book,]” Swanson said. “[Brand Bookshop] is the last of what’s left of the pre-Internet days.”

Although book sales have dwindled in recent years, the main reason for closing up shop is because of Joseph's health, Nakano said.

Last year, Joseph suffered a fall at the store and broke his hip. His mental health is also deteriorating, and he currently resides at an assisted-living facility.

Nakano still brings him to the store a few times a week and spends most of his time behind the counter, though he can’t really work the cash register anymore.

Nakano, who’s 66 himself, is looking forward to retirement and spending more time taking care of Joseph.

“The credit goes to [Joseph] and the people that worked for him, often that’s not mentioned,” Nakano said. “The people who worked for the bookstore, they to me are the main base that really made this place very one-of-a-kind and a landmark in Glendale.”

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World