Helping them turn the page

Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse is still putting the pieces together after a big rig smashed through the shop April 2, so when employees needed a new location for a previously scheduled author visit, a Montrose bookseller answered the call.

Children’s bookstore Once Upon A Time hosted two authors Friday who had planned to visit the La Cañada Flintridge shop, but would have been unable to read and discuss their children’s books with visitors at the severely damaged site.

By moving the event to Montrose, Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse was able to keep its customers engaged while also keeping strong relationships with authors and providing visitors to other stores, said Maureen Palacios, owner of Once Upon A Time.

“Indie bookstores help other indie bookstores out,” Palacios said. “That’s the way we operate. We’re not necessarily competitors. We just care about the community and want to make sure that it’s helped.”

A truck carrying several cars rumbled through the La Cañada store April 2 after descending a steep slope on Angeles Crest Highway and failing to stop.

Two were killed and 12 were injured when the truck plowed through bookshelves and display islands, stopping with its tail end extending out the front of the building.

The store lost entire book collections, including its titles in cooking, gardening, thrillers, mystery, teen fiction, mythology, travel, religion, sports, antiques and collectibles, crafts and art, said Catherine Linka, the store’s buyer for children’s books.

Two bathrooms were thrown out of place, winding up in an adjacent nail salon.

Despite having to discard 85 garbage bags of damaged books, staff members are operating the store, taking book requests out of a back office and proceeding into the ravaged shop to track down titles for customers, Linka said.

The building has been cleared by city safety inspectors, although it is not yet suitable for visitors to explore on their own, store owner Peter Wannier said.

Building owner Leonard Totta plans to remodel the site with the same specifications and design as it had before the crash, he said.

He has building insurance, but would not disclose the cost of the repairs and was planning on using remodeling plans from 2006, which are still on record with the city.

A group of 10 visitors came to Once Upon A Time for the reading activity Friday, a small audience that was excited to hear from the authors, Judith Ross Enderle and Stephanie Jacob Gordon.

Montrose resident Heather Gore attended the event with her two children, who would have missed the chance to see the authors if the plans had been canceled altogether.

“It’s really nice to see them kind of work together,” she said of the two bookstores.

The crash was avoidable and could have been stopped with emergency escape routes and warning signs for trucks, which had previously existed along the highway, but have been covered or removed, Totta said.

State Sen. Carol Liu and Assemblyman Anthony Portantino are responding to the crash by developing legislation that would ban large trucks from the route.

Wannier plans to move some of the stock from his rented 3,900-square-foot space into a temporary 1,400-square-foot trailer that will be located on the store’s parking lot. That change should take effect in the next week, he said.

 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at

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