This is the first a sporadic series of articles about interesting places off the beaten path in Los Angeles.

The Last Bookstore

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In the heart of the slowly gentrifying Downtown District, among the hip new restaurants, the neglected old architecture, and the similarly incongruous swirling mixture of people stands what once was a bank. Today it is an airy mecca of cheap books, music, movies, and decorated with interesting art, The Last Bookstore is every nerd’s dream. The first floor is a ten thousand square foot open floor plan full of shelves, chairs, and a small stage that was occupied by an atmospheric jazz quartet when I visited. The second floor is more multipurpose and contains several small artisan boutiques including a yarn workshop, and several small artist studio/stores. But my favorite part is the one-dollar book labyrinth where the limit is how much you can carry, and a science fiction room that was a vault in its past life.

The whole store is a constantly changing art piece, with the feeling of being the last refuge for booklovers. Indeed it’s one of a dwindling number of independent bookstores in L.A., and one of the last ones that will buy your books even if they’re not rare or specialized. If you’re looking for a store where you can buy seven books for seven dollars and search out interesting little art pieces that are scattered throughout the store, the Last Bookstore is the place to go. You don’t even have to pay shipping costs, beat that Amazon.

Melrose Ave.

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While not unknown and certainly not new, the edgier and more interesting part of the shopping district on Melrose [extending from Alta Vista Blvd to Fairfax Ave] is the place to go if you want to troll for interesting and well priced to moderately expensive clothes. There are always sales going on and interesting graffiti art in the most unexpected places. The stores are frequently changing but there are some constants, like many of the well priced vintage and consignment stores that have hung on for years. Some of my favorites are SLOW [which has a cowboy-themed room in the back], Wasteland [which has a really interesting façade and great selection both vintage and not], American Vintage [which has great random sales, so be sure to sign up for their alerts], and Crossroads Trading Post [more contemporary pieces but at great prices]. The little stores up and down the district are well worth exploring. If you have a little extra to spend and want to experience unique punk chic, visit the fabulous Cosmo Queen of Melrose, run by Cosmo himself, his brother Joe, and another designer, Nathalia Gaviria. If Cosmo is in the store and he likes your look or decides it needs a tune-up, you better hope you did your legs recently, because he’s going to dress you up. He is a force of nature unto himself so be prepared to wear whatever he hands you. Afterwards, when your clothes have been returned to you, you might want to pop down a couple blocks to try what might just be the most amazing ice cream in the state, at Neveux Artisan Creamery. I had the salted caramel and butterscotch rosemary and became almost catatonic in joy.

7474 Melrose Ave

7428 Melrose Ave

American Vintage
7575 Melrose Ave

7409 Melrose Ave

Cosmo Queen on Melrose
7367 Melrose Ave

Neveux Artisan Creamery
7407 Melrose Ave

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