Distant Lands Travel Bookstore in Pasadena Closing

High Rents, Competition From Mega-Corps Cited

Store Has Been in Pasadena 29 Years

Distant Lands Window Sign

The wonderful travel bookstore and outfitters in Pasadena, Distant Lands, will close its doors by the end of December, possibly as soon as Christmas Eve.  The Store, located in trendy Old Town Pasadena at 20 South Raymond, has faced increasingly high rents since they started in business 29 years ago.  As with other bookstores, when the rents go sky-high it is impossible to survive selling general books to the public.

20 South Raymond is near the heart of Pasadena Old Town

Other factors in the closing this month include the intense competition from huge internet operations in the travel business itself, which has led to many travel agencies around the world to close their doors.  The large internet corporations achieve a near-monopoly status and discount fiercely, making it nearly impossible for smaller agencies to survive.  Another factor might be that large parts of the world are unsafe for travelers at the moment, due to wars, famine, and political turbulence.

The Store-wide sale is starting now.

Distant Lands carries a large stock of books on travel, as well as maps and other informative information.  Everything is on sale, including travel gear, fantastic back-packs and even some display items like funky old suitcases and trunks.

The store has a Facebook page and also a website, www.distantlands.com.  The owner said he will probably continue business online only in some fashion, but right now he is  concentrating on their store-wide sale.

Notice the old airline seats.

For many folks, Distant Lands was the starting point for an adventure of a life time.  The store could guide you and help you plan your travel to many remote and exotic places. Your memories of these travels and adventures remain forever. It also attracted a large and constant stream of foreign tourists, who came to get information on where to go in the Los Angeles and Southern California area.  Pasadena is a mecca for tourists, the yearly Rose Parade attracts people from around the world.

Memorial for Jerry Lang

Long Time Manager of Cliff’s Books in Pasadena

Jerry Lang

Jerry Lang

A touching memorial for Jerry Lang was held in the beautiful town of Sierra Madre, California on August 14th, 2016.  Jerry passed back in February, as reported on this blog. Jerry’s family and friends had the opportunity to get together and celebrate the life of this kind and gentle man.  His sister Cathy Seal, his beautiful daughter Brittany, and his brother Tim, all gave heart felt remembrances of Jerry.  A slide show presented photos of Jerry throughout his lifetime.

His nephew Don Lang, who is a musician in Portland, Oregon, wrote and performed a powerful song about Jerry, called Welcome to Heaven.  Don said that since Jerry loved books, he thinks of him every time he sees a paperback.  “Paperbacks are going away, just as our dear Jerry has gone away.”  We managed to video his song, which you can hear by clicking on the box below.

Here is the direct link to the song, on youtube:  https://youtu.be/q6SAkZN54s0

Check out the interview with Jerry that I posted on this website, just before his terrible stroke.  The closing of Cliff’s Books was a disaster for the employees.  It happened without notice and had severe consequences for many of us.  Having worked with Jerry at the store, on and off for a period of years, I can say that he was a first class human, a kind and caring man.  He also had a great sense of humor, and we had our share of laughs.  Jerry was there at the store through thick and thin, he was the only employee who stuck it out during the time the store was closed down by the City of Pasadena, hanging in during the day so that Jack and I could work at night correcting the building violations in order to get the shop open again. I don’t know how he did it, there was no pay for any of us as the doors were shut. Really, I don’t know how any of us did it, it was like being in the lost brigade of WWI.  Jerry was a rock for us, and if he hadn’t been there during the day for those 3 months we would not have been able to do our work. I will have more to say about the closing, and more video to post later.

The Memorial was held here in Sierra Madre

The Memorial was held here in Sierra Madre

The Gardens

The Gardens

Memorial Service

Memorial Service






Brittany and Jerry

Is This The End for Cliff’s Books?

Rumors are swirling – Is This The End?

Is this the end for Cliff’s Books in Pasadena, California?  Cliff’s has been around for about 24 years, but Cliff is about 80 years old, and the scuttlebutt is that the rent just jumped up 40% to a huge amount.  Owner Cliff Gildart hasn’t been in the store reportedly for over 2 years, hiding out somewhere in a little cottage in the wilds of the Pasadena foothills.  The shop has been run by a skeleton crew, trying to cope with the recession-depression, an old building full of problems, an absence of foot traffic on the street, the decline of brick-and-mortar stores, the rise of internet bookselling, the Nook, the Kindle, the lack of money to make any big book buys, the vanishing collectors, the cultural meltdown, the decline of reading, the horrible educational system in Los Angeles where 50% of the students in high schools supposedly drop out (Pasadena itself has a much better school system than L.A.), the high price of gasoline, and possibly a decline of interest in the book itself, replaced by an electronic device.

Cliff’s is one of the last of the big used bookstores in Southern California.  We have already said good-bye to most of the giants: Book City Hollywood, Berkeleuw (Hollywood), Book City Valley, Book Castle (Burbank), Book City (Burbank), Book Baron (Anaheim), Acres of Books (Long Beach), Wahrenbrocks (San Diego), Pickwick (Hollywood), and others we can’t recall at this time, much less the scores and scores of small and medium sized shops that are gone with the wind.  What’s left in the World of Giants if Cliff’s goes out?  The only one we can think of is Brand Bookshop in Glendale.  That’s it for large general used bookstores in Southern California. A big store has opened in Downtown LA, but this writer hasn’t checked it out yet. It does have a fitting name: The Last Bookstore.

With a population of nearly 10 million in Los Angeles County alone, we will be left with one large general shop.  And that one is shaky because the owner, Jerome Joseph, a great bookman and a funny, cheerful fellow, is himself well into his 80’s.  So what is the problem?  Is the population of Los Angeles just getting stupid?  Brain-dead from TV?  Overloaded with immigrants who refuse to learn English? There are certainly some big hurdles for any retailer, especially book shops.  Real estate prices have soared, rents have skyrocketed.  There’s a recession, but tons of empty buildings and storefronts have not stopped the onslaught of high rents.  The greed seems never ending, even to the point of self destruction.  Down the street from Cliff’s used to be a newstand-paperback joint called Bungalow News.  The rent went up so high that the long-time proprietor had to call it quits.  The storefront has been vacant for many years.  Across the street from Cliff’s was a shop called Book Alley.  This outfit started about 20 years ago in Old Town Pasadena, as a little shop in an Alley in the Old Town maze.  High rent drove them out to settle in on East Colorado, almost across from Cliff’s.  Eventually the rents bloated up and out, so Book Alley, under a new owner, moved farther east, to its new high rent spot 9 blocks or so east of Cliff’s.  That storefront across from Cliff’s has also been empty for years.  The landlords must be so wealthy that empty stores for years has absolutely no effect on their bank accounts or lifestyles.  Some cities across the country have started to tax landlords who keep their buildings empty.  Will that happen in Pasadena, where empty storefronts abound?  Construction of new buildings is still brisk, the old one-story buildings wrecked and 4 and 5 story monsters now are lining East Colorado, with more to come.  Billions spent in construction costs.  The developers and banks have seemingly unlimited funds to spend, but where’s the retailers?  A lot of the stores remain empty.  As long as the U.S. Treasury is printing money, (now over 40 billion every month), the banks and developers will have a field day. Some say that at some point in the future, when the interest on the debt reaches the edge of the solar system, the big collapse will come, sucking the entire civilization into the void. By that time the population may be too ignorant and stupid to even notice.

Stay tuned here for the latest news on this drama and the heartbreak story of Cliff’s Books.