One of the last independent bookstores in the Los Angeles area, Dutton’s Brentwood, is closing its doors.
According to owner Doug Dutton, the store will remain open until the end of March, with a probable liquidation sale following in early April. Scheduled author events will take place during March, and the store will continue to take special orders until March 15. Gift certificates will be honored, with a web redemption site for gift orders to be set up by late April.
The decision to close was made only after “every effort [had] been made to try to sensibly and rationally save this enterprise,” according to the official press release.
“We have certainly seen our difficulties multiply over the last couple of months,” said Dutton. “The most important aspect is simply the uncertainty we’ve been facing for the last year. I’ve been in fairly continuous negotiations with the property owner, Charles T. Munger, but he decided at a certain point that it was just not a tenable situation.”
The property that Dutton’s occupies, known as the Barry Building, was designated a landmark last year by the City of Los Angeles after the daughter of the building’s architect spearheaded a campaign to save the structure. Munger, the new owner, reportedly opposed the designation and announced plans to redevelop the property. According to Dutton, the redevelopment plans, along with the expenses incurred by last year’s closing of the Beverly Hills branch of Dutton’s, had a strong negative impact on the Brentwood store’s ability to “provide the kind of immediate service and depth of inventory that our customers have come to rightly expect.”
The history of Dutton’s is that of a family business run by book-lovers. Dutton’s parents opened the original store in North Hollywood in 1961. Doug Dutton and his brother opened a second branch in Burbank in 1978. Then they split the business, with the brother running both Valley branches (both since closed) and Doug Dutton opening the Brentwood location on the site of the former Brentwood Books, in 1984.
The Beverly Hills branch opened in 2004, with the support of the City of Beverly Hills. But the store was unable to generate enough support from customers, and the branch closed at the end of 2006.
The Brentwood store, with several ground-floor rooms opening onto a courtyard, became a popular gathering place in the area and was the scene for many author signings and poetry events. Poetry readings, with both local and nationally prominent poets, often took place in the courtyard.
In the western wing of the store, reserved for fiction, a book-buyer might run into clerk Scott Wannberg, a local poet and raconteur, who would dispense information about books along with spontaneous outbursts of metaphor. Other writers also worked in the store and chatted with customers about the most exciting literary doings.
“We have been asked if the store will reopen in the proposed new development, or at another site in the area,” stated Dutton in the press release. “At present, any plans to reopen or relocate will have to await a real offer in a real situation, combined with a sober assessment of the realities of the book world. That said, we have not said ‘no’ to any future possibility.”
Dutton regrets the loss of “individual personality” at bookstores. But the world, as he notes, is changing.
“I will certainly miss this location and our clientele, our events, and our ambiance,” he said. “But sometimes, all good things must come to an end.”