Friday, July 05, 2013

R.I.P., Two L.A. Landmarks: Tom Bergin's and Williams' Book Store

TOM-BERGINS Williams Book Store

This is why we can't have nice old things in Los Angeles: They keep disappearing. We've said goodbye to the likes of Bahooka this year (and I'm still nervous about the return of Clifton's Cafeteria). And now L.A. is saying farewell to two more retail landmarks: The 77-year-old Irish saloon Tom Bergin's and the 104-year-old Williams' Book Store in San Pedro.

Here's the L.A. Times story on the surprise Tom Bergin's shut down:

The pub -- one of the oldest restaurants in Los Angeles -- posted a message on its Facebook page announcing the closure. A reason was not given. The message simply said: "We are sorry to let everyone know that this Sunday will be Tom Bergin's last day of business. Please join us in our last few days; we'd love to see as many familiar faces as possible."

Someone who answered the phone at Bergin's this evening attributed the closure to "lack of sales." The man -- who declined to give his name -- added: "The ownership wasn't reaching the revenue needed to sustain itself."

The tavern had recently been taken over by Los Angeles restaurateur Brandon Boudet, closed for some retooling, and then reopened. Efforts to reach Boudet were unsuccessful.

Tom Bergin's Tavern first opened in 1936 on Fairfax Avenue, south of Wilshire. L.A. Times restaurant critic Jonathan Gold said walking into the restaurant's dining room was like stepping back in time to Raymond Chandler's L.A.

The tavern was known for its rare Irish whiskeys, a well-drawn Guinness and hefty servings of coconut cream pies, as well as for the signed shamrocks that festooned the wooden rafters above the bar, signed by regulars and tourists alike. Still, the menu offered a bit of whimsy, such as a jambalaya.

And here's the L.A. Times on what's to become of Williams' Book Store:

Opened in 1909, Williams' Book Store is considered by some to be the oldest continuously operating bookstore in Los Angeles (Vroman's, which opened in 1894, is in Pasadena). But it stands to be the latest casualty in a business that has been moving increasingly online.

Williams' Book Store was opened by E.T. Williams, a Welshman who landed in San Pedro and decided to stay. When he died in 1940, it passed to his daughter Ethel; in 1941, when Anne Gusha graduated from college, she began working at the store full time. Ethel brought Anne and then Jerry into the business, and in 1980, the Gushas took ownership of the bookstore.

The store has moved to various locations in its century in the book business, always looking for a lower rent that would allow it to continue to serve the same community.

Williams' Book Store will close the first week of August, after San Pedro celebrates its 125th anniversary.

(Pic credits: KCRW; Williams' Book Store)

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