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Vroman's Celebrates 125 years with special anniversary events

Humans of the Bookstore

Humans of the Bookstore Banner

Vroman’s is turning 125 years this month!

To celebrate, we decided to do a special series called Humans of the Bookstore to feature the amazing people who have supported us, helped us, and made us who we are today, YOU!

Browse the stories and memories below to read about how Vroman's has served the Pasadena community for the last century. Thanks for 125 years, and here’s to 100 more. 

(If you would like to have a story or memory featured, please email us at email@vromansbookstore.com with the subject line: Humans of the Bookstore. We'll add them as they come in so check back for new stories and memories!)


Jena & Daman

Photos of Jena and Daman's Engagement at Vroman's

"On September 4, 2019, my fiance, Daman, chose Vroman's as the place he wanted to propose to me.  He doesn't live in California and had actually never been to the store before, but he knew how much I loved it and thought it would be the perfect place to propose - and he was right!"

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s? When was the first time you came to the store?

Jena: I have been coming to Vroman's for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Pasadena and as kids, my cousins, my brother and I used to spend hours sitting in the store reading, moving from the children's books section to young adult and finally, downstairs.  My entire family loves and cherishes Vroman's.

Do you have a favorite event that you’ve attended? 

Jena: My aunt, Marla Frazee, often has book signings at Vroman's, and, to me, there's nothing better than being at one of her events and listening to her speak. I get to sit in the audience and be a very, very proud niece.

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?  

Jena: Vroman's is a treasure. It has always been an important place to me because it is rare to find a bookstore this extraordinary. 

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Jena: It's just way too hard for me to pick an all-time favorite book.  That being said, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles is one of the best books I have read in a very long time and immediately became one of my all-time favorites.  It's incredible and I've recommended it to everyone I know!

 


Marc and Mia

Photo of Mia reading at Vroman's"I am Mia and I’m eleven years old. My grandparents took me to Vroman’s when I was very little. My Nana took me to the Read Aloud until I could read on my own. What I like about books is you can read the story and pretend you are one of the characters. At Vroman’s I get to read and explore the books and find those characters. My favorite series is “Land of Stories” because I can relate to some of the stories and really have fun going on the adventures they go on. Yay. Go Vroman’s."

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s? Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store? Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Marc (Mia's Grandfather): I am seventy-four years old and it seems that Vroman’s has a permanent home in my memory. Growing up, I was surrounded by books, the New York Review of Books, New York Times and independent literary publications. My father was never without something to read. This was his world. There was little money in our house so the local library was the main source of literature, but of the few extravagances my father had, buying books was high on the list. Mostly pocket books but a smattering of hardbound books filled the shelves floor to ceiling. As a result I found and still find bookstores magical. Finding Vroman’s was most likely a lucky happenstance but once there it was like going home. We, my wife and I, look for the bookstores in every city we visit. Now as grandparents Vroman’s is the destination almost every time we get to spend time with our grandchildren, and they seem to have inherited the love of books.

When was the first time you came to the store?

Marc: It has been too many years to remember the first time I came to the store. Being next door to the Laemmle Theater does often make for a perfect afternoon. Like in the Theater, where you are surrounded by an audience in a shared experience I like being in the company of people who feel at home in a bookstore.

Do you have a favorite event that you’ve attended?

Marc: My wife brought the grandkids to Vroman’s Read Aloud sessions and we often frequent the evening lectures. Vroman’s is also the first stop for our purchasing of gifts. I fear for the future of bookstores with the advent of Amazon and their pricing, so I make it a point to buy my books from Vroman’s.  One can’t wander around on Amazon and find a great read by randomly pulling a book from the shelf. I have found some of my favorite authors by just such serendipity. So as for my favorite event I can honestly say just time spent in the bookstore fills the bill.

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Marc: To some extent Vroman’s is a community co-existing with a larger community. It is in Pasadena, but we come to it from the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles and our grandchildren come from yet further away. There seems a common bond, I believe, between people who find pleasure in books and more so those who love bookstores. So the existence of Vroman’s Bookstore, an increasingly endangered species, is critical to me and equally so to the community at large. The evening lectures are another aspect of that community. There is nothing out there to fill the gap should Vroman’s, and bookstores in general, disappear and the digital world does not and cannot provide even an approximate alternative. Writers deserve books and books deserve bookstores and bookstores hold a special and essential place in the community. That pretty much sums up what Vroman’s means to me.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Marc: I have favorite books but an all time favorite would be hard to pick. It makes me anxious to even think about picking one book out of a lifetime of reading. It also seems that as I think back through the decades there were favorite books, but more so favorite authors, that spoke to me at different stages of my life. So I’ll just let this one go. However what I have been reading recently is Talbot’s “Season of the Witch”, and “The China Mirage” by James Bradley. When I was much younger and reading science fiction, “Dune” by Frank Herbert was a favorite.

 


Gerda

Photo of Gerda"Prior to publishing my first poetry book, I went to a reading at Vroman's by Kim Dower who read from Air Kissing of Mars, and I participated in a mini-poetry workshop. I don't recall the prompt but Kim asked us to write a poem. I did so and realized that I was the first one finished. I was a bit nervous and was thinking I may have written too quickly. When the exercise ended, Kim asked different attendees to read what they had written. I wrote a poem entitled, "I Love When" about how my artist husband usually creates his artwork. I read my poem and she said, did you know that you rhymed in one part of your poem and you used certain phrases, etc. She continued and said 'you are very lucky to have the words flow on to the paper without any effort. For some people writing is more difficult and it takes them a while to find their way. I believe that you will do well as a poet.' I was surprised that Kim, who to this day is now a friend, validated my writing. Now I have published four poetry collections. And On Friday, November 15, 2019 from 6:30 p.m.-8:15 p.m. the first collection of the Pasadena Rose Poets  (10 of us) which I edited, published by Shabda Press, will have a launch celebration at Red Hen Press in Pasadena!"

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s?  

Gerda: I have been coming to Vroman's since 1983 when I began my position with the City of Pasadena as the Executive Director of the Pasadena Women's Commission.  

Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store? Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Gerda: Since I am a transplant from the Virgin Islands, subsequently New York City and Pasadena, I am the first in my family to be introduced to the store. When family members come to visit I make sure that we stop by Vroman's.

Do you have a favorite event that you’ve attended?

Gerda: The first was attending a reading with Kim Dower when she introduced her book, Air Kissing on Mars and led a mini-workshop. She encouraged me to continue writing my poetry and praised my ability to write well in a compressed timeframe. The latest was this year interviewing Carla Sameth for her book, A Day on the Gold Line, which was a "standing room" only event.

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Gerda: Vroman's means welcoming, familiarity, enjoyment, surprises, bumping in to so many people that I know, having coffee in the coffee shop, and always being able to get the books I want, even though they may not be in stock at the time. I also appreciate the "free book" box outside the store that allows people to leave and/or pick up books for free. Such a great idea. Over the years, I contributed numerous copies of at least three of my poetry books as my husband and I passed Vroman's during our morning walks.

Do you have an all time favorite book?  

Gerda: Yes, my all-time favorite book is Kindred by Octavia Butler. Glad to say that I interviewed her numerous times for my call-in talk show (Ebony and subsequently As We Speak).  


Kate and Tom

"We’re all totally thrilled for your wonderful achievement 125 years serving  Pasadena, and surrounding areas. We live in Santa Monica, but we’ve been coming to Vroman’s for years. Years ago SM had several bookstores, but gradually they all disappeared. Even when there were bookstores in SM Vroman’s was in a special category, far superior to regular bookstores. We’ll always continue to come regularly to  Vroman’s. You’re a special and unique bookstore."

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s? Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store? Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Kate: I’ve been coming to Vroman’s for approximately 20+ years, my husband introduced me as he used to live in Glendale. We’ve in turn introduced several family members to Vroman’s, and they totally adore it also. Even though we live far from Vroman’s we still manage to pop in and buy books and socks, and have coffee in your cafe usually every few weeks and sometimes stopping off at some of the museums nearby. We love the Arboretum and the Huntington in cooler weather. We also belong to the Pasadena  Heritage, and we’ve gone on many wonderful  Historic Walks and House Tours.

When was the first time you came to the store?

Kate: I don’t remember the first time I came to  Vroman’s but whenever it was, it was love at first sight. This is a BOOKSTORE.

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Kate: Vroman’s is a uniquely special and wonderful bookstore, and we’re so grateful that you’re around, and have been here in Pasadena for the past  125 years. Santa Monica lost all of their bookstores. When we first moved there, there were lots of bookstore, but gradually they’ve all disappeared. And we love the give-back program, which we’ve been part of for years.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I have so many favorites, but I would say Alice in  Wonderland/Alice Through the Looking  Glass, Home  Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie  Colwin, Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl and many more.  


Ainhoa & Luna

Photo of Luna the Husky "She is not exactly a human, but Luna loves coming into your bookstore. She is not as interested in the books as I am, but she sure loves the treats and hugs that all the people at Vroman's give her when they see her. We are happy to hear that you are celebrating your 125th anniversary, and we sure wish you another 125 years to come!"

How long have you been coming to Vroman's? Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store? Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Ainhoa: I moved from London to Pasadena 2 years ago. At the time the only person I knew here was my husband who, knowing how much I love books and independent bookstores, would drive me to Vroman's at least once a week (I didn't have a driving license at the time). Vroman's quickly became my happy place. So much so that a few months later we decided to move to the Playhouse district. Ever since I have recommended the bookstore to everybody I have met. I have brought neighbors, colleagues, friends and family visiting from all over to enjoy the magic that is Vroman's.

When was the first time you came to the store?

Ainhoa: It was December of 2017. One of the first things that I did when I moved to Pasadena was to research local bookstores, and Vroman's was the first one I visited. 

Do you have a favorite event that you have attended?

Ainhoa: I attended a book signing by Chuck Palahniuk and a silk painting class. Both events were a lot of fun. I have been meaning to learn more about book clubs around Vroman's, cause I would love to join one too.

What does Vroman's mean to you and the community?

Ainhoa: To me, Vroman's is a place to enjoy both books and people in a beautiful environment. We all live busy lives, and Vroman's is a place where you can simply disconnect, browse a huge selection of books, read and learn about pretty much anything you can think of and interact with similarly minded people. I think Pasadena, without Vroman's, would not be the same city at all. People from all over come to Vroman's to search for books, for gifts, to sit down and read while enjoying a nice cup of coffee, to play the piano. There is no other place like it. 

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Ainhoa: That is a very difficult question to answer. There are many books I have enjoyed reading in the past few years, but I do come back and reread the books that I loved as a kid: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Picture of Dorian Gray and, of course, the Harry Potter series.


The Kolesk Family

Photo of Baby Julian"Vroman’s is a place that has brought our family constant joy—sometimes unexpectedly.  A few years ago, my wife and I were expecting our first child and we were searching for titles in the children’s section to start a library for the little guy. My wife picked up a copy of The Adventures of Beekle, and as we flipped through the pages, a woman approached and asked if we wanted it signed. She explained that the book’s author and illustrator, Dan Santat, was her husband—and just a few feet away. Dan graciously broke out a pen and asked who he should make it out to. We hadn’t yet told anyone the name we had chosen for our unborn son, but couldn’t pass up this. So Dan doodled a quick Beekle and signed the book, 'To Julian.'

Julian has made many trips back to Vroman’s after that day. And now he’s joined by his twin sisters, Margot and Elliot. Their library has grown to the point of being unwieldy. And the whole family still reads, and loves, Beekle."

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s? Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store? Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Kolesk Family: We have been coming to Vroman’s since 2010, when we were dating. We have since introduced many friends and family members to the store, and now our children.

Do you have a favorite event that you’ve attended?

Kolesk Family: Some highlights include Thomas Lennon & Robert Ben Garant’s signing of their book Writing Movies for Fun and Profit all the way to Liz Climo’s recent presentation of Please Don’t Eat Me. And there was the time James Ellroy pet our chocolate lab, Henry.

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Kolesk Family: We’ve always referred to Vroman’s as one of our “happy places.” Strolling the aisles and browsing the titles—from new arrivals to staff picks—just brings us joy. Reading time is big in our family, and we always find a fun new book at Vroman’s to mix it up.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Kolesk Family: We can’t choose one, sorry.
Classic - The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
Contemporary - Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Children’s Classic - The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
Children’s Contemporary - Leave Me Alone by Vera Brogsol


Anne

Photo of Anne"My older brother started working at Vroman’s while I was in high school.  A couple of years later, when I decided to take a year off from college and needed a job, he convinced the book department manager to give me an interview.  That was in 1985, and except for  a couple months’ work at the USC bookstore right after I graduated and an 18-month stint at an indie bookstore in Indiana, I’ve been here ever since.  In addition to my brother, two of my sisters have worked here, and now one of my nieces has a job here, too.  I met my husband in the Vroman’s break room; he used to manage the old office supply department.  People think it’s wild that I’ve had one job for so long, but when you really love your work and the people you work with, why leave?"

Anne is currently the Visual Merchandising Manager for the store.

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s? When was the first time you came to the store?

Anne: I don't remember the first time I came to Vroman's.  I literally have been coming here my whole life!  My dad was a doctor and had the stereotypical Wednesday afternoon off; instead of stereotypically golfing, though, he liked to come to Vroman's and shop for books.  He and my mom always had a huge stack of paperback books to read on the dresser in their bedroom.  I grew up in Arcadia, so I usually went to the Vroman's in the Santa Anita Mall. It was more of an occasion, usually on the weekend and including lunch, to visit the main store in Pasadena. 

Do you have a favorite event that you’ve attended?

Anne: I've attended many, many events over the years, and my favorite is probably when Bill Bryson came to sign A Walk in the Woods.  When he got here, he was tired and hungry: his plane had been late, it was raining, he'd had to fight traffic from LAX to get here, and the publicist had warned him that there would probably be a modest-sized audience, that his fans were more East Coasters and Midwesterners.  As soon as he saw the crowd of approximately 100, he lit up and gave a delightful reading and Q & A session.  I'd been running the event, and a few days later he sent me a wonderful thank you note; I still have it tucked away in one of his books on my shelf.  Anthony Bourdain, as you might imagine, also put on a hell of a good show. 

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Anne: My favorite book in all the world is The Princess Bride by William Goldman and my goal in life is to convince everyone that it's better than the movie.  It really is.


Michael

"Hello from Chiang Mai , Thailand. I was raised in Pasadena and went to St. Andrews grade school and St. Francis High School ( grad1967). I remember Vroman’s as ALWAYS being my favorite store, not only because I loved books, but I probably spent a small fortune on their wonderful cards as well. Whenever I am back in Southern California I make it a special point to visit Vroman’s and fill up with that special ambience that only Vroman’s can offer. Best of Luck in the Coming Years!"

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s? When was the first time you came to the store? Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store? Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Michael: I first started coming to Vromans in 1964. It was close to Canterbury records and every Saturday I would go downtown to buy the latest 45's then stop at Vromans to check out their card selection. I introduced my family and friends to Vromans. My daughter Kristin is a regular member.

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Michael: Vromans was always a refuge from the everyday hustle and bustle of the outside world. I could travel the World inside of that little gem of a store (the store was much smaller back then). Through the years the store has grown and adapted to the Modern times. I've probably spent a Kings Ransom on the wonderful Cards alone.

Tremendous changes brought on by the Internet have altered most all of our buying habits. Brand name book stores have come and gone. But a few jewels remain - Powells books in Portland and Vromans are 2 such jewels. Congratulations on your 125th Anniversary of bringing entertainment and education to the people of Pasadena as well as much of the San Gabriel Valley. You are a prized and precious gift for the City to have.

I now live in SE Asia but continue to visit Vromans whenever I am in town.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Michael: My first book from Vromans was Gibran's The Prophet. Others have been 100 Years of Solitude (probably my favorite), All That Is by James Salter, Le Carre's The Constant Gardener and of course Life by Keith Richards....just to name a few. 


Suzanne, Ronan, and Bodie

Photo "I grew up in Pasadena and remember Vroman's before it expanded. Vroman's is such an important part of my childhood. I moved away from Pasadena, but bring my son Ronán (now 11) to Vroman's every time we visit. Here are a few photos we have taken over the years. The newest addition to our family (Bodie-22 months) visited Vroman's on our last trip. Hopefully, we will take a photo of both boys in front of the store, next time we visit. Both boys love books as much as I do. "

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s?

Suzanne: I have visited Vroman's for as long as I remember. I grew up in Pasadena and I visited Vroman's before and after they remodeled the store. 

Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store? Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Suzanne: I cannot remember the first time I went to Vroman's as I was too small, but I am sure it was my mom who brought me there. My 11 year old has visited Vroman's since he was a baby. Even after moving from Pasadena, we always visit Vroman's when we visit and pick out a book. I remember that he was very excited to find the Goosebumps book The Abominable Snowman from Pasadena. On our last trip, I brought my baby to visit Vromans for his first time. 

Do you have a favorite event that you’ve attended?

Suzanne: My favorite event was when Jane Goodall spoke at a Vroman's event. 

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Suzanne: Vroman's means home to me in many ways. I no longer live in Pasadena, but Vroman's is a place I always loved to visit. I  love going there for a coffee, book, and perhaps a movie at the Laemmle. It is much more personalized to read the personalized staff descriptions at Vroman's, than to purchase a book on Amazon. 

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Suzanne: My favorite book is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  


Marianne

"My first memories of going to a bookstore are of going to Vroman's.  I lived in So. California until my early 20's when I got married and moved to the east coast in 1989.  My mother had a love of reading and learning that I witnessed every day. My father was involved in the LA County and Alhambra libraries for many years and is an avid reader (avid doesn't even begin to describe his love of books and reading.)  They both instilled a love of reading and books in me from an early age. Every visit home to So. California always includes a family trip to Vroman's!  We will be there in the middle of November 2019 and I can not wait to see what I might find."

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s? Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store? Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Marianne: I am sure my parents are the ones that brought me to Vroman's the first time as a kid, and many times after that.  I have no idea how old I was, but I have vivid memories of going with my Mom when I was a pre-teen/teenager. She loved it there and so did I. I don't remember what it looked like then or if we attended any events, I just remember walking around and looking and touching the books.  And I am sure buying a few over the years.  I introduced my children to the store on our last visit. They are 23 and 27 so I didn't catch them when they were small but they both loved it as well.  

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Marianne: To me Vroman's is part of my childhood. I am looking forward to my visit next week!

Do you have an all time favorite book?

Marianne: My all time favorite book would be If I Had A Lion by Liesel Moak Skorpen, published in 1967.  I don't believe that it is available other than on a used book site or Ebay, but I still have my copy. I probably still have it memorized.  As an adult my favorite fiction book is The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and my favorite non-fiction book is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.


Jen

Photo“My daughter grew up in Vromans and we continue going back whenever she visits. It's a little piece of our history. The picture was taken when we were at Vromans searching for ACT review material on 8/8/2014.”

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s?

Jen: Since 1999

Were you the first or did a family member introduce you to the store?

Jen: I am the first. I relocated from NYC to Pasadena.

Have you in turn introduced family members to the store?

Jen: Yes. I first introduced my daughter to Vromans was when she turning into 1 yr old, I decided we needed some intelligent influences. 

Do you have a favorite event that you’ve attended?

Jen: It evolves at different stages. Started from children book reading time...now is the author presentation events. I was at a Johns Hopkins Women event last Saturday in Pasadena, Luci Babel, author of “Eat to Lead” introduced her first new book during the event. I have recommended Vromans to her. I hope to see her autographed copy in your store soon.

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Jen: It's the only book store in our neighborhood. I can always find happiness, and life solution there.


Doris

Photo of Doris with Tommy Chong"Congratulations on your 125th anniversary! On Aug. 21, 2006, I attended a book talk for "The I Chong" by Tommy Chong and purchased 5 copies. This event was one of the most memorable that I have attended at Vroman's!" 

How long have you been coming to Vroman’s?

Doris: I have been visiting Vroman's since the mid 90's.

Do you have a favorite event that you’ve attended?

Doris: In 1996 I attended a book event by Lisa Gail Ryan and bought a wonderful book "Insect Musicians & Cricket Champions", one of my favorites!

What does Vroman’s mean to you and the community?

Doris: I enjoy Vroman's for the variety of events, great selections, music in the summers, all the helpful staff, etc., etc. I have been volunteering with the Friends of the Pasadena Playhouse since 2001 so I'm always in the area.


Carolyn

"I used to work at Vroman's a while back. In high school, I worked at the store that was in the Santa Anita mall. I have some pics from that time and one from a staff holiday party that I thought I'd share." 

 

Employee photosemployee photosemployee photos

 


Michele

Photo of Michele with Michael Connelly"My family and I have been coming to Vromans for as long as we've been Pasadena residents; 47 years! Andrew and Katherine, my nephew and niece, have been coming as long as they've been alive; 28 and 26 years respectively. My sisters Renee and Kim and I go to Vroman's whenever we feel a need to be uplifted. We've been to so many book signings we've lost count. I've attached a picture of me with my favorite author... well one of them.

Thanks for being there!"

 

 

 


Sari

Photo of decorated box"When I was 8, my parents divorced. My dad‘s parents would, without fail, send me books every year for my birthday and Christmas (and sometimes random holidays like Easter) from Vroman‘s.

For a long time, it was Wizard of Oz books, then I moved on to things like Nancy Drew (and got all of those, too, though I don’t have them any longer).

My parents live in the house my dad grew up in, and still shop at Vroman’s. This is a photo of a package that arrived this summer for my oldest’s birthday. Your employees decorated the box!

Happy anniversary, and best wishes."