In the heart of Uptown Whittier there was a place where people could expand their imagination... a place where they could hear open- mic poetry and find an expansive collection of literature, graphic novels, and music. Unfortunately, Whittier will be losing the town’s only bookstore: Half OffBooks. On Oct. 7 Half Off Books will officially close their doors and will be relocating to Fullerton on Oct. 11. For a special farewell, the bookstore had their final fire sale and even opened up their basement so that many loyal customers could explore more of their collection.
When the bookstore posted on Facebook on Sep. 2 to announce their closure to the people of Whittier, many locals were shocked and heartbroken by this unexpected news. According to the post, the bookstore has paid their rent on time since their opening in 2011. Since then, their rent had increased from $4,250 to $6,000. While their rent increased, their property manager Simon Hakakian with HR Property refused to replace the roof, which had damage and leaks. Half Off Books said that they have spent an estimated $50,000 to fix building issues that they believe the landlord should have handled. After a visit from the Whittier Building and Planning Department, Hakakian agreed to replace the roof, but also increased their rent to $8,500 a month. For these reasons, the bookstore has decided to relocate to downtown Fullerton with the hopes that faithful Whittier customers will travel a little further to still visit the bookstore.
“This move is the hardest thing we’ve had to do, but it is something we absolutely have to do,” Half Off Books wrote on Facebook. “It is unavoidable, and in the long run we truly believe it is the best thing possible for us. We know Fullerton will be a wonderful new home, and we know moving there will enable us to open more locations in the future. We never wanted to leave Whittier, and hopefully somehow in the future there will be a way for us to return.”
Not only did this news shock the city of Whittier, but also members of the Whittier College community. “I feel sad that it’s leaving Whittier. Bookstores like those are remarkable because you can always find treasures,” said third-year Jazmine Perkovic. Many students would go to Half Off to find books for classes, fill their bookshelves, or sell their books. It was a place where the students could really explore andhave as a go-to when strolling in Uptown. “My initial reaction upon learning [Half Off Books was] closing was shock, followed by anger, followed by a disappointment I won’t get over quickly,” said Interim Director Collections Management Librarian Mike Garabedian. “What [the students] and Whittier residents are losing is a singular community amenity, as much a meeting place, salon, and performance venue as it was a wonderfully charming, expertly-managed secondhand bookstore.”
For many, it was a bookworm’s paradise and gave its visitors a hunger to read. The sound of the creaking floor, the smell of aging pages, and the nice employees made people feel at home.
For those who can make the trek to Fullerton, Half Off Books will be located at 141 W. Wilshire Ave, Suite A, a 32-minute drive from Whittier College. They will be hosting their first event on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.: a reading of a new anthology of poetry called Lullaby of Teeth. The event will feature poetry from many Southern California poets and is sure to attract a large crowd.