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Keeping the Downtown Focus on Books

By Pamela Rouse
Published: Tuesday, July 06, 2010, at 11:14AM
Historic Los Angeles event poster Pamela Rouse [Flickr]

Since opening Metropolis Books in December of 2006, Julie Swayze has been keeping a focus on local authors and history.

After 20 years in the retail business, first as a store manager and then as a corporate buyer, Swayze wanted to bring her love of books and her experience as a buyer to a store of her own creation. When friend Mark Schumacher opened Old Bank DVD, the Pasadena resident saw the opportunity in Downtown.

"He said the one thing DTLA needs is a bookstore," Swayze recalls.

She set out to create a store that could bring in events, attracting mid-level and bigger name authors to Downtown and creating a literary community to which she could showcase local authors and poets.

"There's obviously a literary community here," Swayze says. "Downtown people read more than they watch television. There are more readers downtown."

The store's Classic Book Club started in January of 2007, meeting the last Saturday of every month. Originally starting with titles from authors like Austin and Bronte, this year's selections have progressed to contemporary names like F Scott Fitzgerald, Octavia Butler, and Pearl S Buck.

Swayze keeps in touch with customers through Twitter and Facebook, even taking in order requests via social media at times. The store's email newsletter is supplemented by a regularly-updated blog.

Through all this, her monthly events continue to be a mainstay. "Since December 2006 we've done 126 events," she says. While the store can accomodate up to 50 attendees, Swayze hopes to soon start putting on larger events at other venues.

Saturday's event may be low-key, but it will certainly be at capacity on history. Authors Jim Dawson (Los Angeles' Angels Flight), Chris Epting (Historic Ballparks of Los Angeles) and Alex Moreno Areyan (Mexican-Americans in Los Angels) will be visiting the store to discuss their respective books. They are all featured writers in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series.

"[The publisher] had contacted us when we first opened," Swayze says. This will be the third event in conjunction with the publisher. All the authors are local and write on local subjects. "They publish books about Downtown and the books are just amazing," Swayze says. "There's so much information."

Jim Dawson's book on Angels Flight covers over 90 years of history from its inception in 1901 through the 90s when it was re-opened briefly before a fatal accident once again closed the funicular. The short railway just resumed service in the spring.

Chris Epting's Historic Ballparks of Los Angeles covers places like Chutes Park, Gilmore Field, Wrigley Field and how the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum became the Dodgers' first home in California in 1958.

Alex Moreno Areyan's Mexican-Americans in Los Angels covers a long and varied history of famous people from sports icons, entertainers, artists and actors to political and civil rights figures important to the context of Los Angeles and their time.

The authors will discuss the books and their favorite anecdotes about their subject, open the floor for Q&A, then have a book signing. "We'll do a video of it and do a video blog and upload it onto the website," Swayze says.

The event will take place from noon to 2pm on Saturday, July 10th.

Metropolis Books / 440 S. Main / 213-612-0174 / @MetropolisBooks


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