Libros Schmibros

When I first met David Kipen, I had no idea who he was, except that he was “that Jewish guy that moved across the street” from Corazon del Pueblo a while back. Before I knew it, people that had talked and met him told me about his idea for opening a book store in the empty space on the corner of Cummings. I loved the idea of a non-corporate book store in Boyle Heights and when I finally met David around the way, he told me his plans, which is to create his newly rented space into a book-sharing store, so to speak.

Apparently Kipen is more than “that Jewish guy across the street.” He was the literary critic for the San Fransisco Chronicle and director of National Reading Initiatives at the National Endowment for the Arts. Amazing what a quick google search can yield. Anyway, I stopped by the his pad since he was officially open for business.

Kipen is still a freelance writer, but most of his time and energy have gone into cleaning up his new crib/business. I remember first going in there and it was like stepping into an old ass, dusty room that hasn’t been occupied in years, which is exactly what the space was before he moved in.

Now the place is looking pretty snazzy if I say so myself. Book selves, tables and furniture packed to the edges with books from Kipens personal library. Stuff he’s collected over the years as an avid reader and critic. He specializes in L.A. books and has a little bit of something for everyone. Basically, the way things work is that you can borrow a book for two,three weeks, Kipen jots down your info and you’re good. If you wanna buy the book, just let him know and he’ll make you a deal you can’t refuse. Plus, there’s a homie discount for Boyle Heights residents.

For the time being, he will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Noon to 7-8ish or when the Dogers game is over that night. Anyone with extra books at home is more than welcomed to donate them to the space and monetary donations to keep the spot open are also welcomed. While Kipen is still organizing his space, he said he wanted to open the space on the first day that the Ben Franklin Library would be closed because of budget cuts.

Needless to say that he’s fitting in to the barrio because when you have this piece of universal Latino furniture in your pad, you’re cool in my book. We had one of these in my house for years. The things has a million and one uses.

Now, I haven’t failed to realize the story within the story here. Jewish guy moves to BH to open a book store, because you know, BH use to have a big Jewish population back in the day and now they’re slowly moving back to BH and becoming part of the neighborhood again. Getting in touch with their roots and all that good stuff. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great angle to this story and it sparks great conversations, but if I were to write about it from that angle, what will the L.A. Times write about when they read this post, send a reporter down to BH, probably Hector or Esmeralda and write their own version of this story, like they’ve done in the past.  BTW, I like Esmeralda better than Hector 🙂

In my previous google search for background info on Kipen, I found a link to a recent article in Pubishers Weekly about moving to BH, his book store plans and how the idea came about. You should check it out cause it’ll fill you in on all the other info I didn’t really feel like including because I would just link it and have y’all read it because I didn’t wanna paraphrase the info either. Also I left the store before I could ask him about all that. HOWEVER, I did come across an interesting quote from the articles writer, “As Boyle Heights becomes more gentrified, Kipen is also willing to stock new books if the neighborhood calls for them. “ Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa … whoa. So, apparently BH is getting gentrified ? Wow that’s news to me. But I like how Kipen followed up the question by saying that the book store is for everyone. You can gentrify my nalgas that’s what you can do.

Check out the space when you get a chance and if you have books you wanna donate, drop some off to Kipen. He’ll be more than happy to give them a new home.

26 thoughts on “Libros Schmibros

  1. Mazel tov and buena suerte David! Nice post Random Hero, we always welcome good people on the Eastside, now lets support them!

  2. your link is broken. Cool book place, might give me something to do with all my books from college.

  3. ERH, I was hanging out with David when that familiar shelf-unit came right off of Cummings Street and into his shop a few weeks back–maybe it’s even the one your family used to have!

  4. Nice! It’s great to see that Kipen is doing what Luis Rodriguez couldn’t do: open up the bookstore in East Los (and not in the valley.)

    Also, Kipen gets bonus points for doing it here and not in The Mission District next to El Farolito.

    At the risk of sounding like a douche – stop trashing Esmeralda and Hector. They would do what you failed to do here: actually INTERVIEW Kipen. Orale? Plus, come on’ bro. Hector came from Roosevelt. Why are you being a hater?

    Am I the only one who appreciates the poster on his wall? Sweet! Keep these hot posts coming.

  5. It didn’t seem to me as if Random was trashing Esmeralda or Hector. I have a feeling he likes Esmeralda over Hector for reasons not having to do with reporting? 😉
    Nice post, Random! I tried to go on the opening day but happened to catch the owner during one of his breaks. The gentrification quote kinda made me think twice about the place but I’m willing to support…for now.

    By the way, I’m still mourning the loss of the excellent, community-supporting, raza run bookstore, Imix in Eagle Rock. Hoping Elisa is able to continue on in the book trade as her love for her work was apparent to all. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to make a living as a bookseller these days. All my love and support for her future efforts!

  6. I’m sure he has some good books but it looks like every other old man bookstore, where they think they have the quality goods that will outweigh the fact that the place looks like a dump. I mean even his Libros sign is already torn. Nevermind that I already don’t want to sit on those couches. Doesn’t he have money?

    If he really wants to be of use to the community he’d have spanish language books on Ovnis, cooking tips, Tarot, Angels, Car repair manuals, Condorito, and el Libro Sentimental, as well as the other novelitas that people enjoy. Lending out things that you like or read isn’t necessarily of interest to anyone else. I know.

  7. Hmm…yeah, the gentrification quote also made me feel a bit uneasy… but I’d like to give it a chance and see 🙂

  8. @Steve See ? Chimatli got it. But I do have a quarrel with Hector, considering he laughed in my face the first time I met him and told him I’m in school to be a journalist. And yes I would have interviewed Kipen, but you know, this is a blog and if people want QUALITY writing that is actually decent, they gotta pay for it. I’m broke !! Gimmy me money now !!

  9. I’m excited about this bookstore. I grew up partly in Boyle Heights (and partly in East LA (the real one)) reading other people’s used books. Mostly white people’s used books. And, yeah, sometimes it was not what I would have wanted, or chosen, to read, but I appreciated those books.

    And, I appreciated these nice people (acquaintances of my parents) who gave my parents books to give to me and my sibling. I found something useful, thought-provoking, interesting in all of them. OK. I didn’t read all of them, but I read a lot of them and each of them expanded my world-view. It’s a great act of generosity to share your ideas with a child, via a book. You’ll always grow up to have your own ideas and your ideas will evolve in unexpected ways, but they will be better when they are borne of varied influences.

    I am infinitely grateful for those books (and those people) and look forward to sharing some of my own books with David and his new libreria.

  10. Its unfortunate that any attempt to improve the quality of life is often bombarded with charges of gentrification. Whether it is opening up a book store or train in the area. Or anything that diverges from the stereotype of what East LA is.
    Whats more outrages is how it then reinforces the negative connotations of what the Eastside is. The idea that bookstore can not succeed with thoughtful literature, it must have novelitas and manuals about physical labor to be successful. Thanks but no thanks. Give me Chaucer, Chandler and Che. We bitch and moan cause the school system short changes us, yet we do the same. We demand that the school systems give us better, yet we don’t think that a book store in Boyle Heights will succeed. Forget about the fact that this man jewish and he is not a local, less we wish to be judged by our religion, ethnicity or where we come from. The only thing that matters is that its a book store and it is in Boyle Heights.

  11. Look, the area is already gentrifying, even though, like most of LA, it’s happening fairly slowly.

    This isn’t a Bunker Hill situation, or even an Echo Park situation.

    The hospital condo conversion got stalled or killed. The Sears building plans seem to be stalled. The Wyvernwood situation doesn’t look so stalled, but it’s hard to tell. The RE market is totally underwater.

    The Pico-Aliso HOPE VI project happened. The dogtown projects and the ones off of Hazard are being targeted for conversion. (What about Estrada Courts and Rose Hills?)

    The real force behind gentrification is the local government with federal government money, handing over properties to private developers.

    Also, the big complaints on LAE about the train aren’t that it’s coming through, but that parts that should have been underground were at street level, and that the entire line should have been run underneath the 720 bus route, which is the busiest bus in LA.

  12. @off the street, they are not “charges” of gentrification, it’s a quote from an article in Publisher’s Weekly about the place. Anyways, this bookstore doesn’t need our cheerleading. The owner has already been on KPCC and in Publisher’s Weekly within the first week of opening. Not that many businesses have that kinda promotion so soon.
    As someone who used to run a small bookstore in Northeast LA, I have to agree with El Chavo, the aesthetics of the place are not my cup of tea but maybe after some time they will be more comfortable and more inviting. I will wait patiently.
    I’m sure the bookstore will be appreciated by residents or at least folks will be curious enough to pop in when it’s open, so no need to fret…

  13. To the critics of the place’s design: David is doing this out of his own not-very-deep pockets, so deal with the recycled furniture! He’s a good guy and he is excited to be part of and contributing to the neighborhood. Give him a chance.

  14. Actually, I agree with the compassionate theme of this stream. Anyone who attempts to continue the legacy of books for future generations is worthy of support. Let’s not debate the mind of the owner, it will always be a business at some level of his mind. That’s fine. I just want to inspect the quality of his inventory. The market will be the final judge. I’m planning to drop in next week. Thanks for the heads-up. Good blog.

  15. David Kipen will be giving a talk about Libros Schmibros at the LAVA Sunday Salon at Clifton’s Cafeteria on August 29 (noon-2pm). Please join us there if you’d like to learn more about his plans for the space–or are curious about LAVA – The Los Angeles Visionaries Association.

  16. @El Chavo-“every other old man bookstore”? LOL
    I’m probably a little too close to this as I am someone who’s invested sweat equity, time and a little change in David’s endeavor in his new vecindad. I can assure you that his passion for this is legitimate. No ulterior motives. This guy could have gone to Echo Park and done the same thing without suspicion and doubts from the locals. He’s investing his own resources into this, and knows that he’s not going to get rich off of it, but his satifaction come from sharing his love of reading and the written word to the community. I think Random has done a great job in his blog posting and pictures, capturing the essence of what this is about and what it could be for Boyle Heights. David wasn’t the one who used the term ‘gentrified’, it was the PW writer. It is such a loaded term, especially in BH and East Los. We accuse the hipsters and others of being snobs…and yes, I know, we are mindful of strangers who come in and make promises and leave us empty handed and broken hearted (to quote my abuelita)
    Come in and check it out with an open mind. Talk to David and within the first few minutes you will get what he is about. Any contributions of books (or cash) would be appreciated. That’s what this space is about-what the community wants, so if you have books in Spanish or about car repair or Dante’s Inferno or childrens books, please contribute. Your used book could become someone’s treasure.

  17. Thanks for everybody’s spirited comments on my new little Boyle Heights venture, whether pro, con, or undeclared. All I can say is, if a lending library/used bookstore is a sign of gentrification, then I sure wish somebody would get around to gentrifying Beverly Hills…

    Looking forward to seeing you all soon,
    David Kipen
    Proprietor, Libros Schmibros
    First & Cummings
    Boyle Heights, CA 90033

  18. Personally, when “I” said that the gentrification quote made me feel uneasy it’s that – it made me feel uneasy that PW would even think to make that sort of statement….-that it crossed their mind….not that the bookstore made me feel uncomfortable.

  19. Antonia wrote:

    “(to quote my abuelita)”


    Oooh, clever. Comparing people who criticize gentrification to the old relative at the dinner table babbling on about yesteryear, whose heart’s in the right place, but… Ugh. I wish I were born beautiful instead of cynical. It’s a curse. It really is.

  20. @Rob Thomas-I’m sure you’re both cynical and beautiful in your own way.
    I think it’s healthy to have a productive conversation about the pros and cons of gentrification as it marches Eastward- home& retail real estate prices are cheaper and people think there are greater opportunities for economic growth and revitalization. However, I also think it is important to recognize that people-including my beloved late Grandmother-and others who were taken advantaged of by opportunistic and greedy Gringo politicians and real estate developers during the ’50’s & 60’s-have a certain mindset. No one seems to mind being gentrified if it increases home values and brings in needed revenues. And for the records, I AM beautiful AND jaded-no curse at all. C/S

  21. Speaking of grandmothers, here’s David Kipen moderating a discussion on saving L.A.’s libraries with my 90-something grandma Barbara “Cutie” Cooper of The OGs and Boyle Heights’ councilman José Huizar this afternoon.

  22. Eeeeek!

    First no one is saying the bookstore is an agent of gentrification (at least not in this discussion). Publisher’s Weekly seemed to imply the owner was looking forward to gentrification. However, they could have been wrong in their interpretation of his sentiments. Who knows?

    Second, gentrification is about displacement of folks who already live in a neighborhood. How is that a good thing? Gentrification does not mean ‘making a neighborhood better.’ Where is the “pro” in having residents forced to move because they can longer afford living in their neighborhood?

    Third, it’s totally possible to create a warm, comfortable, clean and inviting space using recycled, used and curb-found furniture. Many spaces (including one I was involved with) have been able to accomplish this task.

    Fourth, it always helps to have well-connected friends. 🙂

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