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Highland Park - “It’s kind of a dream job,” says Mads Gobbo, the store manager at the North Figueroa Bookshop, sitting in one of the comfortable chairs in the children’s section.
The bookstore that surrounds her is a comfortable, 800-square-foot room with about 3,000 titles, ranging from a memoir of life in New Orleans and a non-fiction work called “God of Sperm” to California literature and “…Flying Saucers are Real!” in the “Curiosities” section.
The North Figueroa Bookshop, which opened in November, is the vision of two L.A. independent book publishers: Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. Each of them has a section in the wall of fiction, as do Grove Atlantic and MCD Books, which provided collaborative support for the business.
"From writer to reader, publisher to bookseller, and everything in between, the literary industry often feels a bit isolated from itself," said Chris Heiser, the publisher and co-founder of Unnamed Press. "Opening a bookstore seemed like a fantastic way to offer a space not just for our neighborhood to get great books, but for cross-pollination in the literary community itself."
Rare Bird publisher Tyson Cornell added, "The bookstore enables us, on a daily basis, to see through bookseller and consumer lenses, which is not only enjoyable as book lovers, but also valuable to us as creators of books."
The store looks industrial from the outside, sharing a warehouse-type complex with the King Wire Partitions company. As it happens, though, the property was owned by the family of writer, filmmaker and curator Fred Beshid, a friend of Heiser's. Rare Bird and Unnamed had offices nearby when this new retail space opened up.
Inside feels like someone’s private library. The shelves have room for local authors and an inventory with an emphasis on California subjects, literature in translation, books in Spanish, and of course independent press publications.
Plus, whatever people in the neighborhood want, Gobbo said.
“We’ve democratized it,” she said about the book selection. “Anyone in the neighborhood can make a stock request.”
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Barry Lank has worked for newspapers on the East and West Coasts, and earned an MS in journalism from Columbia University. He formerly produced "National Lampoon Presents: The Final Edition." A native of San Gabriel Valley, he now lives in East Hollywood.
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