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How to Do…The Last Bookstore
Navigating a former bank that’s now a maze of literary riches
Housed in what was once the Crocker-Citizens National Bank Building, the Last Bookstore is a bibliophile’s palace. The two-story, 16,000-square-foot space offers an array of new and used books (and vintage vinyl) that leaves no category untouched. Upstairs, a tunnel made of books leads to a warren of shelves filled with $1 volumes. You’ll also find the Spring Arts Collective, a row of galleries and boutiques peddling antique cameras, hand-knit pasties, and works by local artists. Despite its fatalistic yet cheeky name, the ever-evolving store is the perfect excuse for a pilgrimage downtown. » 453 S. Spring St., downtown, 213-488-0599.
You’ll often find downtown denizen Brady Westwater organizing the used books. He helped owner Josh Spencer find the location but says, “The store is 100 percent Josh. He knew what he wanted to do but underestimated the response. It has become a community for the whole city.”
On the second floor is DT•LAB, a performance space and mini store that showcases books from small independent presses, like Rare Bird Lit and Writ Large. The latter is the imprint of local poet emeritus and literary man-about-town Chiwan Choi.
Built in 1914, the 12-story building that once moved hundreds of millions of dollars also contains offices, artists’ spaces, and the Crocker Club. The thumping nightspot includes a sleek private lounge that originally served as a massive walk-in vault for bank customers.
The store is open daily, usually until 10 or 11 p.m., but during downtown’s Art Walk, held the second Thursday of the month, the galleries inside join other art spaces in the Historic Core and open their doors for a festive block party that draws big crowds.
MAKE A NIGHT OF IT
☛EAT: At Bar Ama chef Josef Centeno puts an upscale spin on Tex-Mex staples: bowls of hot, melty queso served with freshly fried corn tortilla chips and a Frito pie made with lengua. Or you can sample the famous bacon-wrapped matzo balls at The Gorbals.
☛DRINK: The old-school French dip purveyor-turned-cocktail hot spot Cole’s is three blocks away. If you prefer vino, Buzz Wine Beer Shop has a creative selection that’s also sold by the glass to be sipped in-store.
☛STROLL: With its metal benches and modernist fountain, Spring Street Park feels like a slice of San Francisco. This patch of grass and cement has become popular with dog walkers and parents.
Photograph of Brady Westwater by Edward Duarte; All other photographs courtesy Shutterstock