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R.I.P. Acres of Books in Long Beach, CA

Oh, my, the hours I spent there! Happy trails, Jackie and Phil.

Acres of Books

Resident Cat at Acres of Books

[L.A.Times] After 74 years in business, the independent bookstore giant with an inventory that topped 1 million volumes is closing down to make way for a redevelopment project. The two-story brick building will be transformed into a mix of housing and art galleries as part of the city's plan to connect downtown with its East Village Arts District.

Acres of Books opened on Pacific Street in 1934 and moved into the current building in the 1940s, taking over from a country-western bar and dance hall. Back then, Long Beach Boulevard was a hot spot for the Navy, packed with bars, tattoo parlors and mom-and-pop shops.

Founder Bertrand Smith and his son, E.P. Smith, worked more than a year to move into the site, shuttling hundreds of thousands of books in the back of a pickup. Over time, the downtown strip, starting from the shoreline, has given way to an arts renaissance and a 21st century economy of condos and Starbucks shops.

"We knew eventually it would catch up with us," said Jackie Smith, 68. She and her husband, Phil, plan to retire and travel. They've had time to say goodbye to the store, after selling their building to the city for $2.8 million three months ago.

Smith said she and her husband searched for months for a new location but didn't find one that met their needs for a large space on a modest budget. Once they sell their inventory, which in less than two weeks has gone from 700,000 to 500,000, they will join the list of independent L.A. area bookstores that have been ousted by sluggish sales or redevelopment.

"I hate to see it go," said Smith, whose husband inherited the store from his grandfather. "If we would have been able to hold on, we would have probably been here until we turned to dirt. But that's not possible."

iTunes is currently playing: The Book I Read from the [bootleg] album Live at the Sun Palace (Tokyo) by Talking Heads.