Vroman’s Bookstore was founded on November 14, 1894 by Adam Clark Vroman, located at 60 E Colorado Street, a few blocks west of its current location. Born in 1856 in La Salle, Illinois, Vroman moved to Pasadena, California in the late 1800s to improve his wife's health. When she died two years later, he sold his book collection to raise the capital to open the bookstore. The store also sold photographic supplies. Vroman was a passionate photographer, specializing in scenes of the American West and portraits of Native Americans. Ansel Adams called Vroman an influence on his own work and Vroman’s work hangs in both the Huntington and the Southwest Museum. Once the store became profitable, Vroman returned to book collecting, donating his massive collection to Pasadena Public Library when he passed away.
Vroman was also extremely generous and committed to philanthropy. He helped to rescue some of the old Franciscan missions from decay; as an active member of the Historical Society of Southern California, he helped establish the Southwest Museum; and he was a supporter of the Pasadena Public Library. There’s even a story of him loaning money to a competitor, and helping him establish credit with vendors, so that he could start a rival bookstore.
Vroman’s Bookstore holds an important place in Southern California’s history. Through the years, it has continued to be an independently owned family business, expanding several times, opening a stationery supply store and a second bookstore location in the Hastings Ranch area of Pasadena. In 2009, Vroman’s bought another well known independent bookstore, Book Soup in West Hollywood, after its owner died and the store was in danger of closing. For many years, Vroman’s was the largest bookstore west of the Mississippi, and it continues to be the oldest and largest independent bookstore in Southern California. During World War II, Vroman’s donated and delivered books to Japanese Americans interned at nearby camps, returning on several occasions despite being fired upon by camp guards. Vroman’s was the first bookstore in the country to have a computerized inventory, and one of the first independent bookstores to implement streamlining efforts like license plate receiving (a computerized receiving method that improves efficiency).
The Vroman's legacy of excellence and philanthropy continues into the present day. Throughout the years, the store has supported a variety of causes and institutions through food drives, gift drives during the holidays, free hiv testing, pet adoption days, support for local girl scout and boy scout troops, donations for charity raffles, school book fairs, and the Vroman's Gives Back program. Vroman's Gives Back is a charitable program that donates a portion of a customer's purchases to a local organization of their choice, including public radio stations, arts centers, family services, and programs supporting literacy, the homeless, and animal welfare. To date, Vroman's has donated over $595,658.60 on behalf of our customers.
Vroman’s is also famous for its world class author signings and events. The store hosts over 400 events a year including children’s storytimes, trivia nights, craft classes, bake-offs, and special launch parties, and has hosted such authors as President Bill Clinton, President Jimmy Carter, Irving Stone, Upton Sinclair, Ray Bradbury, David Sedaris, Salman Rushdie, Walter Mosely, Joan Didion, Barbara Walters, Anne Rice, and Neil Gaiman.
In 2008, Vroman's was honored with the Publishers Weekly Bookseller of the Year award. The annual award is chosen by a panel of industry professionals, and honors the very best bookstores in the country. Criteria for the award include clarity in mission and vision, expertise in buying for its target markets, innovation, successful events, and business efficiency. Vroman's has also been recognized throughout the years for our excellent customer service, our incredible staff, our extensive book inventory, and our wide range of gifts, ranging from stationery, cards, and fine writing instruments to jewelry, handmade gifts, fair trade merchandise, candles, purses, scarves, and much more!
Vroman’s is a Pasadena institution, a literary landmark, a community center, and a wonderful tradition. We hope you visit soon!