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After Nearly 55 Years, Caravan Book Store is Still Bringing Goods to Downtown

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Tuesday, May 04, 2010, at 10:41AM
books Ed Fuentes

|VIDEO| Step into Caravan Book Store and you will find books from floor to ceiling, many with beautifully crafted spines. The small shop, tucked into the Pacific Center on Grand, just around the corner from the Central Library, is just as it has been since 1954.

Off in the back corner, behind yet another stack of books, shop owner Leonard Bernstein will often be seen sitting at his worn wooden desk. At the sound of the door's bell, he peeks around to offer a hello to those who wander in.

That desk is where he's been stationed for decades, watching Downtown change outside the front window. You wonder if Downtown's recent changes surprise him? "It did at first," he says, recalling the first few times he would be near the door stacking books on a bottom shelf only to look up see a curious dog watching him work. "I would follow the leash and the young dog owners would be there. I'd invite them in. It's refreshing."

Bernstein remembers working in the store as a child with his father, Morris, in a 1950's Downtown where 6th street was 'Book Row,' and the neighborhood was full of offices for shipping agencies, railroads and airlines.

Morris Bernstein opened the shop in 1954. "He wanted to make a place that was in the tradition of old west caravans that brought goods into the city from far and wide," Bernstein explains, recalling his father's decision to name the store after the early suppliers of culture and goods.

Book Row has long disappeared, for a while replaced by chains. Borders Express at Macy's Plaza and B. Dalton at the L.A. Mall closed in the last two years, but Bernstein is glad to see new book stores open Downtown. "I welcome the other independent bookstores," he says. "There's room for more of them. A community of bookstores is better than one. . . or none."

The antiquarian bookstore itself is far from being a romantic final chapter to a part of Downtown city once lined with speciality shops. "This is my world here, where I feel comfortable," Bernstein says. "I plan to stay."

Caravan Book Store / 550 S. Grand Ave / (213) 626-9944


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