In the Palisades

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This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

Last weekend I went out to a corner of Los Angeles where I seldom go. And I bet many of you don't either.

Pacific Palisades is one of the edge communities within the city limits. Like Tujunga or San Pedro, it's off by itself.

At the end of the road -- in this case Sunset Boulevard – 20 miles or so from City Hall downtown.

I pretty much have to be going to the Palisades in order to ever pass through. It's not usually on my route to the beach, unless you count the strip down below on Pacific Coast Highway.

Just like the people in Tujunga, or Chatsworth, the Palisades' isolation from the city, from the Los Angeles that most of us experience, is what many people like about it.

But that's about where the similarities end. Pacific Palisades is an island - demographically - in the multiethnic city.

More than 80 percent of residents are white. The median household income is one of the highest in the city -- $168,000, as of a few years ago.

That's richer than Brentwood or Beverly Hills…a little behind Bel-Air.

My trip to the Palisades was to make a last visit to Village Books. The bookstore has been a feature of the Palisades community for 14 years, a place where I and many other authors have spoken when we have books out.

It's tucked into a little shop on Swarthmore Avenue, in a village of other little shops. There's a vacant storefront for lease next door, but on Saturday the sidewalk tables were jammed at the deli a few doors down.

The sandwich place across the street was also doing a good business.

book.jpg Inside the bookstore, I found the Los Angeles book I was looking for – the store's last copy of Leo Braudy's Hollywood Sign -- and sat down to let my wife finish her browsing.

People from the neighborhood streamed in more or less non stop. Mostly women, most of them known to the staff -- and they wanted to talk.

They had read owner Katie O'Laughlin's letter in the local paper, the Palisadian-Post, announcing that she would close the doors on June 30.

There would still be a website. O'Laughlin would try to furnish books for some local events. But the bricks and mortar store, with its murals of local scenes – and its rent -- would be no more.

Every customer seemed to have heard the news and had something nice to say, or offered condolences.

Every third one or so wanted to do something – had an idea to make the store somehow work. Maybe move it inside another store, or advertise differently.

Tom Hanks, the actor, had stepped in a few years ago to help keep the store alive. There was talk of tapping him again.

But even in the Palisades – one of the wealthiest and educated corners of Los Angeles – the numbers don't pencil out easily for a small independent bookstore. Not like they used to.

O'Laughlin explained that Village Books has struggled financially for 10 years. Since the new year, the bottom has fallen out.

Sales dropped off 32 perecent in January, she says, and just kept dropping. Business is off 40 percent.

So LA loses another bookstore. And there's one less reason for me to visit the Palisades.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.