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Vroman's and Book Soup, sitting in a tree

October 9, 2009 |  8:47 pm

Vromansbooksoup

Two major independent bookstores in Los Angeles are about to become partners: Pasadena-based Vroman's has signed an agreement to purchase Book Soup in West Hollywood.

Glenn Goldman, Book Soup's longtime owner, began looking for a buyer when he fell severely ill, and the fate of the store has been up in the air since his death early this year. "Glenn and I had talked about it," Vroman's President and chief operating officer Allison Hill told The Times Friday night, "and we've been in conversations with the seller since January."

Although both Book Soup and Vroman's are landmarks of L.A.'s cultural life, they're not an obvious match. 115 year old Vroman's is the Auntie Mame of Los Angeles bookstores: a bit frowsy on the surface but sassy underneath. Located east of Old Town in Pasadena, it's got room to spread out and offers a deep, rich stock of literary fiction, travel books, cookbooks, kids books and toys, local history, stationery and -- yes, already -- holiday cards. It's done so well with this model that it opened a branch in Hastings Ranch in 2001 to serve the deeper east San Gabriel Valley.

Then there's Book Soup. Located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, it was founded by Goldman in 1975 and shaped by his electric, artistic sensibility. It's equally fascinated with the edgy, the glamorous and the smart, packing sometimes disparate books into its tight space and towering shelves. This is where Patti Smith signs and shops. If a bookstore can be a pair of skinny jeans, Book Soup is one, and they're black.

And that's just how it's going to stay. "I don't believe that just anyone could have come in and taken over Book Soup," Hill says, and she should know: she was its manager for six years. "There is an authenticity to what Book Soup is that we intend on honoring. We would be crazy to do this otherwise." Closure of the deal is still pending.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photos: Left, Tom Brokaw signs "The Greatest Generation" at Vroman's in 2000. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times. Right, Book Soup's marquee after longtime owner Glenn Goldman died in 2009. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg

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