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New tenant proposes eatery and pub plans for former Brand Bookshop

After 30 years housing thousands of used novels crammed into towering bookshelves, the former location of the now-closed Brand Bookshop could soon be home to a pizzeria and gastro pub.

The new tenant said the building would be split into two restaurants: a Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria on one side and Chess Park Tavern on the other.

Pizza chain co-owner Aro Agakhanyan said one of the reasons he’s eyed the 5,000-square-foot former bookstore — which closed its doors last year — is because the Orange Street Parking Garage is right behind it.

But more notably, the Chess Park Tavern directly abuts an alley that inspired its name — Chess Park. The 4,000-square-foot alley lined with 16 concrete chess tables plays host to the Downtown Farmers Market every Thursday. But other than that, it doesn’t get much use, Agakhanyan said.


So he plans to set up an outdoor patio on 1,000 square feet of Chess Park, he said.

“We thought it would be cool to add to Chess Park because it’s not that successful,” Agakhanyan said. “We’re trying to bring more activity to it.”

He said he would seek to have dining and spirits allowed on the patio.

For several years, economic development officials for the city have worked to try and establish downtown Glendale as an 18-hour city, where people can socialize after work.


Agakhanyan said he thinks he’s playing into that goal, while Rick Lemmo, president of the Downtown Glendale Assn., said outdoor dining along Brand Boulevard is part of the sought-after vibrancy.

“People enjoy eating outside … I think that this will provide for a great nighttime use to the Chess Park,” he said.

Agakhanyan said he wants Chess Park Tavern to be a “step up” from a typical sports bar. There will be 100 beers on tap in addition to a full bar. Some of the menu offerings will include skirt steak, halibut and lobster tacos.

Breakfast will be served all day, and multiple televisions will show various sports games.

Agakhanyan said he’s thinking about extended hours during the weekends, past 2 a.m., to accommodate people leaving nearby venues such as Giggles nightclub.

He still requires approval from the city’s Design Review Board and the state’s Alcohol Beverage Control. A grand opening is at least eight to nine months away, he said.

The Brand Bookshop closed last year and its owner, Jerome Joseph, died this past summer. He ran the business with his adopted son, Noriaki Nakano.

Lemmo said he would like to see the new tenant hang a photograph of the bygone bookstore or display some other tribute somewhere in the building.


“It would be a great tip of the hat to the previous use,” he said.

Agakhanyan said he will definitely do something like that and may even preserve the Brand Bookshop sign. The sign will be removed to make way for a new façade, but there may be room to hang it elsewhere on the property, Agakhanyan said.


Arin Mikailian,

Twitter: @arinmikailian