The Oldest Surviving Westside Bookstore Will Be Gone By Mid-March
by Paul Hunt
Alias Books, 1650 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles. Photos by Paul Hunt
Alias Books, the longest surviving used bookstore on the Westside, will be closing in mid-March. The property will be torn down so developers can put up a condo complex. The store began life in 1959 as the West L.A. Book Center, on the north side of Santa Monica Blvd. just west of Sawtelle. The original owner, Ken Hyre ran the shop for 43 years. I believe he moved onto Sawtelle sometime in the late 1970s, although I can’t remember the exact date. Ken bought an old Masonic Temple and moved in with shelving and books. Ken Hyre was a good friend of Eli Goodman, owner of Cosmopolitan Book Shop in Hollywood. Together they published the “Price Guide to the Occult”, a comprehensive list of occult and metaphysical titles and their values.
In 2002 Hyre turned the business over to Brian Paeper, who has operated the shop ever since. Ken’s death a couple years ago led to his daughter selling the building. The bookstore is in a wonderful area, around the corner from the Nuart Theater, and on a street with restaurants and little shops. Brian and his brother Patrick (who runs Alias Books East in the Atwater area) are discussing a possible new location, but with the sky-high rents in Los Angeles, prospects of this happening are dim.
Brian, a gentle man who loves books has started his closing sale, with books now at 40% off. The store’s closing will be a loss to the cultural life of the Westside. Brian has successfully guided the store through the years to supply great books to his customers, and offer the ambiance of a comfortable bookshop in the traditional sense, an opposite of the slick Barnes & Noble/Walmart look. His shop, open everyday and often late into the night, is a mecca for the westside lovers of books and literature.
Soon to be gone….
Here’s a video shot at Alias Books, a salon with author Ben Pleasants, Bukowski biographer. Click on the box below. This is Part 1
Below is Part 2, video with Ben Pleasants
Below is a 2013 interview of Brian filmed by Ben Pleasants
The closing of Alias Books leaves only the Sam Johnson bookstore as the sole remaining used bookshop in W.L.A., and the owner of that shop, Bob Klein, died last year. We sadly have seen the collapse of literary culture all over the Southland, driven mainly by the insane high rents brought about by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s lowering of interest rates to basically zero, making billions of dollars available to corporate real estate interests. It is not only commercial property that has soared, but rental property on the west side is among the highest in the country, one bedroom apartments renting for an average of near four thousand dollars a month. Any wonder that there are 60,000 folks living in their cars or in tents on the streets? Will the collapse of culture lead to a society that is set adrift, like a boat that has slipped its mooring, and slowly disappears into a ravenous ocean, where it is swallowed into the depths?
We thank Brian Paeper for keeping literacy alive on the west side, and wish for him the very best in his next endeavor.