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Meet Lynn Klopfer of Brown Bag Books in Downtown Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lynn Klopfer.

Lynn, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The love of collecting books started early with my mother and father as big readers, and supporters of my ‘book habit’. When I was little, my mom would take me to the (very few), used bookstores in the Inland Empire where I was allowed to ‘buy a few’. I was kind of high strung as a kid, so reading seemed to calm me down, as well as helped me through school and on into college.

When my father passed away, I was left his personal library. This is where the business idea started, based on the premise that instead of setting up a traditional ‘brick and mortar’ bookstore, we would start by being mobile, going to wherever folks would allow us to ‘pop up’.

This was in 2004 before the term ‘pop up’ became more glam. With some of my dad’s books and other books I knew people were searching for, our first book shows were at coffee houses, art fairs, and school events. We built a loyal following and have continued to expand, especially into the Downtown LA area where we’ve done shows at Grand Central Market, SmorgasburgLA, Artists & Fleas, and the Silverlake Flea market. For almost fifteen years we’ve been a small business with a big idea.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It was interesting when the Kindle came along to the world of reading and books. When was that, 2009? 2010? People would come up to our pop-up with a kind of smug, ‘You know, people don’t even read books anymore,’ kinds of statements. I have found that to be the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, I think the Kindle boosted people’s desire to own a book in its True Form, paper, and ink. As a business that deals primarily in second-hand resources, the road has only gotten smoother, with more people wanting ‘actual’ books and appreciating that we offer a sustainable way to achieve that.

Used bookstores have always been a staple in the book economy, and we see more and more new, independent book stores opening up these days. People remember that they loved books, the smell of them even. It’s very twee to have a well-curated, personal library. When times were a bit financially tough, like during the Recession when people weren’t spending money on entertainment as much, there were some tough times of, ‘Yes we must persevere’, and we have. Book lovers are back, enforce. And I always say, ‘Reading is Sexy’. Reading a Kindle isn’t (sorry).

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Brown Bag Books started as an idea to be booksellers on the go, mobile, ready to pop up anywhere. We take books to the people, setting up at various events in and around the Los Angeles area. We designed, along with my partner Sean, bookstands that hold upwards of 300 hundred books each, that we constantly weed and add to in order to present the most updated version of our book collection. We are a bookstore, just mobile. The name came from the idea of that quick, brown bag lunch, where you take it on the go. The book stands we built fold up and into our book van, which we drive to each location. It is similar to the Bouquinistes of Paris who sell used and antiquarian books. I saw that when I was younger and told my dad, “one day I will sell books on the street.’ And here we are.

One thing people always ask is “where do you get your books from?” and the answer is Everywhere. Normally we take 2 to 3 trips to Europe per year where we scour the flea markets, used bookstores, and charity shops of London, Paris, and Berlin. I have made great friends with some International booksellers and it brings me great joy when someone in a Berlin used bookshop will say, “oh hey, it’s our LA book friend,” or something of that nature. I almost feel like a literary ambassador for the city of Los Angeles, a self-proclaimed one of course. There are tons of gems in the form of stories, authors, and independent bookstores in Los Angeles, and I love sharing that with people around the world. Books are egalitarian, everyone is welcome to peruse the shelves, and we like providing that for people.

What were you like growing up?
I was a bit hyper as a kid, (and maybe I still am?) Being in the presence of books always seemed to calm me down, and my parents encouraged my reading from a very early age. Storytime before bed, trips to the library, letting me own my own books, they all played a part in what I do now. I also played competitive soccer and was a pretty good student, but I always tell folks, teaching your kid to be a lifelong reader is the best thing you can do for them. The best. School was ‘easier’ because I liked to read. Even science. Without the love of reading instilled in me from an early age, I don’t know how I would have gotten through school.

The business that I’ve created seems a natural product of this early influence as I’ve designed it to suite my earlier taste for the world of books. If I asked the question to my younger self, what do you want to do when you grow up? (which is always a good question to ask, and re-ask), I would have answered, “something to do with books.” And here we are. I’m also a writer, as most book store owners seem to be. I’m currently almost finished with my first novel, and starting work on a book of travel stories. And like when I was a kid, I’m doing five things at once and enjoying it.

Pricing:

  • Our paperbacks cost on average $6, an excellent price.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.brownbagbooks.biz
  • Phone: 909-890-7453
  • Email: brownbagbooksinfo@yahoo.com
  • Instagram: @brownbagbooks

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Bmgart

    September 16, 2019 at 21:10

    Excellent article and great subject.
    Lynne Marie and her Pop-up bookstore are a monthly staple at Augie’s in Redlands.
    Bravo and thank you!

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