Story and Photos
By Emily G. Peters
In an era of Netflix and chill, reading a physical book can seem like a relic of the past. Yet for those burned out on screen time, The Battery Books and Music bids you come and stay a while.
The Battery is your friendly neighborhood used bookstore, one of the few bastions of physical books remaining in a time where other bookstores, like Pasadena’s Cliff’s Books and even Barnes and Noble, are disappearing. The Battery was founded in 1996 by veteran bookseller Richard West, first as an online resource and then as a storefront in South Pasadena in 2010. Currently co-owned with his mother, Phyllis, their thoughtfully curated mix of secondhand books, music and vintage clothing found a supportive audience in South Pasadena—but moved to Pasadena proper after a 73 percent rent spike pushed them from their original location.
“The Battery has many meanings,” said West, citing the jouer de la batterie, or his love of playing the drums as one definition. “But also to recharge, rethink our current flow… to knock some sense back in.” This revival is nurtured through The Battery’s superabundance of genres, including everything from fiction to history to poetry to children’s lit and more. The store also buys, sells and trades DVDs, CDs and vinyl, making it an ideal post for new discoveries.
Like any proper secondhand bookstore, the literary search is half the adventure. Treasure-seekers are as likely to discover a rare first edition as they are the latest novel-turned-film. West’s love of modern jazz, experimental and improvisational music is also a defining feature of the shop, converting the store into a makeshift venue with weekly performances given by local musicians. Beginning in January 2017, guests can partake in listening sessions by bringing in music selections to enjoy and discuss with others. All this, along with a regularly rotating book inventory, makes each visit to The Battery a unique experience worth repeating.
It hasn’t been an easy road. Foot traffic at the new location is low, with sometimes just a handful of patrons visiting each day. Beyond increased patronage, West’s vision for The Battery involves making the act of book-buying as common as our consumption of digital media. “I’d like the store to be a part of the community’s routine,” he said. “Groceries, clothing, movies, pick up kids, exercise, restaurants, the beauty salon, the barber, books— not necessarily in that order.” To stay relevant, West tracks patron buying habits and adjusts inventory to reflect their needs. “It’s really at the buyers’ discretion as to what appears on the shelves,” he said. “The challenge is to find readers and let them know we’re here.”
For those drowning in digital content, The Battery’s books are a welcome respite from the mayhem. “I value that you can write in the margins as opposed to expressing one’s frustration and anger with incendiary language online,” said West. “Books keep us civil.” And they keep us connected, too.
Stop by The Battery Books and Music at 26 South Los Robles Ave in Pasadena and get in touch at 626-376-9913 | firstname.lastname@example.org. Join their mailing list via Facebook for updates on their monthly calendar of events, and check out their online store at AbeBooks.com