Monday, January 16, 2006

Dutton's North Hollywood is closing

L.A. Observed reports via the Daily News' Dennis McCarthy that Dutton's Bookstore in North Hollywood is closing after 45 years in business.

I remember spending many hours of my youth at this great, unkempt mismash of books on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Magnolia boulevards. I'd pedal a mile and a half or so from our North Hollywood house, lock my Schwinn 10-speed out front next to the boxes of stuff they were trying to blow out the door, and head in to see what I could discover. I wouldn't call the layout logical, and it certainly bore no resemblance to a modern-day Borders or Barnes & Noble.

At Dutton's, books were (and probably still are) stacked on the floor in such a way as to allow minimal passage for a human book-seeker, used volumes mingling with new and shelved two-deep in a chaotically beautiful series of corners, warrens and nooks. (If there's a difference between a warren and a nook, I'd sure like to know, but it just is so English-languagy to use both, no matter what they mean.)

I discovered Charles Bukowski among those shelves, as well as numerous (and more dubious) authors in science fiction, along with everything from impenetrable literary criticism and philosophy to music, science, history and more. I'd also pick up the New York Times Book Review there for something like 50 cents. Yep, I was more high-minded in those days (but no so high-mined as to have any interest at all in the New York Review of Books).

Owner Davis Dutton was a nearly constant presence at the store and didn't seem to mind the hours of browsing that only led to a few minutes of actual buying. You really could get lost in the store's far back recesses.

The North Hollywood never got the publicity that the other Dutton's in Brentwood (independently owned by Davis' brother Doug) sought, and that's too bad, but they really were different kinds of stores, the Valley one being a whole lot more scrappy and just simply packed with books.

I'm not much for used-book buying these days -- it's more about getting rid of stuff then acquiring more, and the North Hollywood area isn't exactly on my current itinerary (which runs more through Van Nuys' Bargain Books, which I hope stays open a long while), but for the whole Valley, the closing of Dutton's is a loss, to be sure.

Seems like nobody was crazy enough to buy Dutton's, but I somehow wish there was such a person. Guess if you're rich, you're not so crazy as to get into the retail book business ...


Andrew said...

I really mourn the passing of a place like Duttons in N. Hollywood. It was the kind of place where you would happen to find something, a book that you never intended to buy at all. Mystery, curiousity, discovery...this place had it all. It was an island of ideas in a sea of stupidity.

Anonymous said...

NNNNNNNooooooooo I cant beleive u guys are closing.That was the best place to buy books.Books about everything.The best thing about it is youd find interesting books for a cheap price.

Anonymous said...

I just read an article in the Los Angeles Times about the Brentwood store closing, and I had no idea the North Hollywood store had closed in 2006. I'm absolutely heartbroken--I worked in the North Hollywood store when I was in high school, some 15 years ago. Dave was a brilliant and generous man. How I miss the musty smell of those old books and the wonderful people who came to browse...and sometimes even shop.

max, i guess said...

was amazing. Many of my friends worked at Dutton's when I attended NHHS. All the unique N. Hollywood stores seem to be going under

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adh said...

i worked at Dutton's North Hollywood the last year it was open and i'll never forget the day we, the staff, were told of Dave's decision to close. Heartbreaking. We loved books, we loved the store, we loved the customers, we loved eachother and we loved Dave. Working there was one of the best experiences of my life. i miss it every day. but i carry it with me as a wonderful, beautiful memory. i only wish it had been open long enough for my kids to grow up loving it as i did.

Merritt said...

How can I get in touch with Davis Dutton?

Mick Kleber
Valley Village

Jae said...

I spent hours and hours sitting in some dusty corner of Duttons digging through piles of poetry books stacked up on the floor, or digging sometimes three-deep in that shelf by the cash register where you sometimes found rare gems. Dave always knew where to find something if you were looking for a specific in that giant mish-mash of books. We need places like that and I don't know of any others with that kind of charm.

Anonymous said...

It was in business from 1960/1961 until October 2006. A sad month since their employee were intelligent compared to other book stores. Davis "Dave" Dutton knew Angela Margaret Webber-Cisneros-Waller and Max Rafael Waller. Google: Sam's Club 6625 and Max Rafael Waller

Anonymous said...

My bike was stollen from in front of the store when I locked it with a feeble chain when I was 19 years old and moved to North Hollywood on a whim from Ohio. I miss that place.

SFRYTR said...

I worked in North Hollywood in the 70's and 80's, and moved away from California about 16 years ago. After all these years, I'm now a published author, and out of curiousity I decided to Google Dutton's and see how it was doing.
Finding this thread was like calling home being told my favorite uncle died.
We all have those places and people we remember with great affection, and we cherish the notion that they will always be there when we get backto checking up on them.
Well, they won't.
We can't do much about human mortality, but we have at least a little say in how long our neighborhood institutions last.
The Internet is great, but every penny saved at an online vendor is a drop of blood from the brick-and-mortar stores that are a part of our communities, our lives and our fondest memories.
Don't take them for granted; they are gone before you know it.

Anonymous said...

Dave and Judy if you get the chance to read have touched so many with your generous nature and patient heart if only the walls of your bookstore could talk but they echo so softly in all our hearts...your labor of love is accepted by all for all time...thank you for buying our books for resale...thank you for giving us more than a fair price...for teaching us what we had, teaching us to fish...thanks for the advances...thanks for bailing me out of jail on $1,200.00 worth of traffic tickets when I was 9 months pregnant...thanks for sharing this life with my family...bless your family and enjoy the fruits of your labor of love, You deserve all the best!!!

Anonymous said...

Not having been to the L.A. area much lately, I was very saddened to see that Duttons in North Hollywood closed. Besides being a great, iconic store, Dave & Judy are truely fine people. They were my landlords 30 years ago, when our daughter was born; always very attentive and pleasant, Dave taught me the value of books, if you don't know how to fix things, get a book that tells you how to do it-duh, I was just a dumb kid then. I got to come back to L.A. a few times over the last few years, and visited with Dave & Judy at the store. They still remembered me and are still the gracious people they had always been and always the value of family. No wonder our marriage has lasted 30 years. I had moved from their Oxnard St. duplex to SF in '79. I wish them and their family, all the best in their "retirement"
Terry Malone

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