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A Beloved 130-Year-Old Small Business in California Is Seeking a New Owner — and It Won't Sell to the Highest Bidder: 'Everybody's Talking About It' Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, a cherished cultural hub since 1894, is looking for someone to guide it into the future.

By Amanda Breen

Key Takeaways

  • Joel Sheldon III, the current chairman, emphasizes the importance of core values and community spirit in the bookstore’s transition after 45 years of leadership.
  • Over the years, the space has hosted notable authors including Upton Sinclair, Ray Bradbury, and Joan Didion.

For more than a century, Vroman's Bookstore has stood as a cornerstone of the Pasadena, California community, frequented by book lovers of all ages.

Now, as it nears its 130th anniversary, Vroman's is at a crossroads as 79-year-old Joel Sheldon III, the current steward and majority shareholder, prepares to hand over the reins to a new generation, The New York Times reported.

Image Credit: Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California

Founded in 1894 by Adam Clark Vroman and left to his godson Alan Sheldon after Vroman's death in 1916, today the bookstore offers a vast collection in addition to a coffee shop, wine bar, and large reading space. Over the years, it's hosted renowned authors such as Upton Sinclair, Ray Bradbury, and Joan Didion, per the outlet.

Related: 11 Business Books Entrepreneurs Must Reread in 2021

Last month, Sheldon expressed his commitment to finding successors who embody the passion and dedication that has kept Vroman's a community treasure — not just the highest bidders, necessarily — in a post shared on Instagram.

Sheldon has steered the company through the tech revolution and changing retail landscapes for more than 45 years, and in 2009, Vroman's bought the large independent bookstore Book Soup in West Hollywood after its owner died and the store was at risk of closing.

Related: 5 Books Every Entrepreneur Should Read Before Starting a Business

The number of U.S. bookstores decreased by more than 50% between 1998 and 2019, from 12,151 to 6,045, according to data from the Census Bureau's County Business Patterns.

Heidi Barnett, a 43-year-old mother of two who frequents Vroman's with her children, is one of many community members worried about what might happen if the bookstore doesn't find a buyer and has to close.

"Everybody's talking about it," she told the NYT.

Amanda Breen

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Features Writer

Amanda Breen is a senior features writer at She is a graduate of Barnard College and received an MFA in writing at Columbia University, where she was a news fellow for the School of the Arts.

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