By Isabelle Cruz
His legacy was described as “his entire life having been given to the pleasure of others” by his loyal employees the year of his death in 1916. One hundred twenty-four years later, beloved photographer and bookstore owner Adam Clark Vroman’s legacy continues today as Vroman’s Bookstore in the heart of the Playhouse District.
Today, Barnes & Noble is considered the largest bookseller in the nation but it doesn’t have the same impact Vroman’s Bookstore has had on the booklover community. Vroman’s is one of the oldest independent bookstores in southern California. On top of that, it is a store that supports local authors with book signing events, promotes local artists by putting their work on display, aids local community food and gift drives, hosts community events all year round, and gives back with a charity program that’s donated at least $655,998.52 to causes such as the recent fires. Vroman’s was also a recipient of Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year Award in 2008.
Vroman’s has expanded since it set roots in the City of Pasadena. By 2009, the bookstore owned West Hollywood independent bookstore Book Soup, after the death of the owner. Currently, Vroman’s Bookstore owns the main bookstore and three businesses: Vroman’s Newsstand, Vroman’s Hastings Ranch and Book Soup. And, if a customer wants to grab something to eat or drink, there is a coffee shop called Jones Coffee Roasters inside the shop.
People who work in the store have described the store’s atmosphere as unique for its “historical affiliation” and as a place where there is “always a new discovery.” The store has left its mark in the community as many have come and come again.
“I’ve been coming here for a long time,” said Larry N. from Santa Clarita, Calif. He described himself as a book lover and likes the store for its independent retailing and history.
Others return for the unplanned, non-cookie-cutter book experience. “I come a lot, about two to three times a month, there are cards that tell you what’s new,” said Felicity F., frequent customer. She described with nostalgia the older bookstore experience.
Vroman’s began making its mark on members of the Pasadena community when it became a literary focal point and destination as it started having book and author luncheons hosting local and famous authors such as Upton Sinclair and James Hilton around 1939. By the 50s, before nationwide chain stores, Vroman’s became the largest book distributor west of the Mississippi.
Vroman’s history started with its establishment in 1894 when Vroman and J.S. Glasscock partnered up to open a bookstore called Glasscock & Vroman. However, by 1900 Glasscock sold the business to Vroman and the store took its current name Vroman’s Bookstore. Upon Vroman’s death one of his devoted employees, Allan David Sheldon, took over the business and continued running the store for generations. Joel Vroman Sheldon III, great nephew of Allan David Sheldon, is the current chairman of the board for the business while the president and CEO is longtime employee of Vroman’s Allison Hill.
As his store still stands today, Vroman’s love for books and giving back will always be cherished.