With Photos: Sic Transit
LB's Famed, Redevelopment Doomed Acres of Books Closes
(October 19, 2008) -- Wearing a shirt with the image of a corpse and the words "Death of an Independent," Acres of Books co-owner Jackie Smith rang up purchases on October 18...the iconic LB bookstore's last day.
Customers stood mainly silently as they prepared to pay one of multiple cashiers and exit for a final time onto the 200 block of LB Blvd.
Spotted among those taking a final stroll through the aisles: SmolarCorp's Ryan Smolar and Rachel Potucek.
LB historian Morgan Humphrey (photo below), who chronicled the history of the Jergins Tunnel (sealed off by city officialdom in the late 60s claiming it was a safety risk) said he'd met Acres of Books founder Bertrand Smith. Store founder Smith died in 1965 at age 96 after moving his store (opened in 1934 at 140 Pacific Ave.) to 240 LB Blvd. What would Mr. Smith say if he returned today? "I think he'd call out the vigilantes," Mr. Humphrey said, adding "he'd be very sad."
Mr. Humphrey said the store (which extends east from LB Blvd. 150 feet) was originally a garage.
Phil Smith, grandson of founder Bertrand Smith, at the door bids farewell to a customer shortly before the store closed at dusk.
The buidling is slated for demolition by the LB Redevelopment Agency to clear the block for a new development, viewed by officials as an entryway to the East Village Arts District.
In 1990, city officials designated the store a "historical landmark."
Pursuant to the provisions of Chapter 2.63 and with the recommendation of the planning commission, the city council designates the following building as an historical landmark in the City: A commercial structure at 240 Long Beach Boulevard. A. Location, description and reasons for designation. Located at 240 Long Beach Boulevard in the City of Long Beach, this commercial building was built in 1924 and has been in continuous commercial use in downtown Long Beach for over fifty years. Its Streamline Moderne facade, added in the 1930s, is an intact and typical period piece. Framed by curving piers with vertical accents, the facade exhibits the typical three horizontal lines and chevron moldings.
The south pier rises in three curved steps to form a characteristic tower reminiscent of the contemporary "skyscrapers". The separation of the transom from the display windows below is typical of the original 1924 building. The facade, a classic Streamline Moderne design, is the result of post-earthquake repairs, representing the rebuilding of downtown Long Beach in the "modernistic" style of the 1930s.Mr. [Bertrand] Smith in 1959 gave to the people of Long Beach a collection of rare books, some dating back to the 15th century. Included in the collection is a two volume facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible all of which is housed as part of the Loraine and Earl Burns Miller Special Collections Room at the main branch of the Long Beach Public Library
In 1990 Acres of Books was designated a cultural heritage landmark by the City of Long Beach. We are now in our third generation of family ownership and have grown to over 1 million books in stock, making us the largest used bookshop in California and a desination for book lovers from around the World.
As home to Acres of Books, it is an established and familiar feature on Long Beach Boulevard that has a regional attraction. Acres of Books is a unique and highly valued bookstore which has been in continuous operation as a family-run business for over fifty years. It is a mecca for bibliophiles, and is widely recognized as a unique cultural resource all over the region.
Bertrand Smith, who established Acres of Books in Long Beach in 1936, was a nationally recognized antiquarian book dealer. In 1959 he made a very generous and important gift to the City of Long Beach, donating more than two hundred and fifty rare and old editions to the Long Beach Public Library. These volumes are now kept in the Miller Room. As a philanthropist and benefactor to the City and its people, Mr. Smith was a person significant in the past.
In its "About Us" section, the Acres of Books website said in pertinent part:
...The building extends for one hundred and fifty feet back from Long Beach Blvd. We carry books on almost any subject and we also carry some antiquarain books though we don't considered our selves antiquarain bookdealers. We purchase most of our books from walk-in sellers, but we will also travel to a person's home to buy an entire library.
Mr. Bertrand Smith 1874-1965, the founder of Acres of Books, was an established book dealer in Cincinnati, Ohio, when he came out west to start a new bookshop at 140 Pacific Ave. in Long Beach in 1934. We moved to our current location at 240 Long Beach Blvd. in 1960. Mr. Smith went to England over the years on regular book buying trips. He became a familiar face in the many bookshops of London's Charing Cross Road and came home with wonderful treasures for the book lovers of Southern California.
Mr. Smith in 1959 gave to the people of Long Beach a collection of rare books, some dating back to the 15th century. Included in the collection is a two volume facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible all of which is housed as part of the Loraine and Earl Burns Miller Special Collections Room at the main branch of the Long Beach Public Library
...In 1990 Acres of Books was designated a cultural heritage landmark by the City of Long Beach. We are now in our third generation of family ownership and have grown to over 1 million books in stock, making us the largest used bookshop in California and a desination for book lovers from around the World.
A "Letter to our Customers" on the Acres of Books website stated:
Dear Customers and Friends of Acres of Books
Jackie and I have negotiated the sale of our property, the building and land at 240 Long Beach Blvd., to the Redevelopment Agency. Acres of Books has been there since my grandfather, Bertrand Smith, moved it in 1964. We still own the book store business, Acres of Books.
We had no choice but to deal with the City of Long Beach, Redevelopment Agency. Craig Beck and Carl Morgan, whom we worked with very closely, treated us in a fair and business like manner. They helped to get us thru some very important issues. We are satisfied with the outcome, and are ready to move along.
The City is going to let us stay in their building one more year. This will give us a chance to have a couple of stock reduction sales, while we continue to look for a place to buy.
So, please continue to visit us, just to look around and hopefully find something you have been looking for, at a fair price. As my grandfather, Bertrand, (Pop, as we called him) said when a customer found an under priced gem, "I made my money at that price, that's enough."
Let us know your name and address, and we will let you know when we have a sale, and you can save a lot of money.
Come in and say hello to Jackie, Ron, Aaron, Steve, Amber, Mary, David, Sean, Megan, Cheyenne and Chloe. Don't forget to give Penny, the bookstore cat a pat and rub, or a hug.
Thank you so much, and we hope to see you soon,
Phil and Jackie Smith
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