Williams' Book Store

Anne and Jerry Gusha at Williams' Book Store in 2002. (Gary Friedman/ Los Angeles Times / August 29, 2002)

As a little girl, Anne Gusha walked into and was charmed by Williams' Book Store in San Pedro. She was 8 years old and the year was 1928. It would be more than five decades before the store became hers -- decades she spent working behind the counter.

Now Anne and her son Jerry, who is the store's co-owner, are being forced to close the bookstore. Opened in 1909, Williams' Book Store is considered by some to be the oldest continuously operating bookstore in Los Angeles (Vroman's, which opened in 1894, is in Pasadena). But it stands to be the latest casualty in a business that has been moving increasingly online.

"The book business is just bad," Jerry Gusha told the Daily Breeze, adding in hindsight that he probably should have called it quits two or three years ago. "I can't pay my bills. I can't get books."

The book wholesaler has cut off Gusha's credit. His phone bill has gone unpaid. "We knew it was coming," Gusha said. "It's been bad for a long time. We struggled to pay last month's rent."

His mother Anne, who has been a fixture behind the counter, is at home recuperating from health issues.

Williams' Book Store was opened by E.T. Williams, a Welshman who landed in San Pedro and decided to stay. When he died in 1940, it passed to his daughter Ethel; in 1941, when Anne Gusha graduated from college, she began working at the store full time. Ethel brought Anne and then Jerry into the business, and in 1980, the Gushas took ownership of the bookstore.

The store has moved to various locations in its century in the book business, always looking for a lower rent that would allow it to continue to serve the same community. The store's current  landlord has worked with Gusha so its doors can stay open through the first week of August, when the city of San Pedro will celebrate its 125th anniversary, but after that it is slated for closure.

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