Vroman’s Bookstore owner Joel Sheldon announced January 18 that the landmark California business, founded in 1894, is for sale. A buyer is sought for the Vroman’s flagship location in Pasadena, the Hastings Ranch Pasadena location established in 2002, and the West Hollywood store Book Soup, founded in 1975 by Glenn Goldman and acquired by Vroman’s in 2009.

“For almost 50 years, I have had the privilege of serving as Vroman’s owner and steward, preceded by generations of leadership by my father, grandfather, and uncles,” Sheldon wrote in a statement shared on the store site and social media. “As I approach my 80th birthday, it’s time to begin the process of retiring and finding new ownership outside of the Sheldon family.” Book Soup echoed Sheldon’s language in an official post about the decision to sell the stores.

Sheldon emphasized that the shop is seeking “someone who shares our core values and who is committed to preserving Vroman’s as a community treasure.” Sheldon’s family has owned and operated Vroman’s since 1916, when original owner Adam Clark Vroman left the store to longtime employees including Sheldon’s great-grandfather.

In 2008, PW named Vroman’s its bookstore of the year, and the Vroman’s stores are household names beyond Southern California, hosting a full slate of author events and literary gatherings, fundraising through the Vroman's Gives Back program, and partnering with the travel hub retailer Hudson Group. Current American Booksellers Association CEO Allison Hill came to Vroman’s in 2004 as general manager and, after a stint as COO and president, became Vroman’s CEO in 2013. Julia Cowlishaw took over as Vroman’s CEO in January 2020, when Hill joined the ABA.

Presently, the combined Vroman’s stores employ 78 full-time and 73 part-time staffers, Cowlishaw told PW, and Sheldon “has been transparent about his desire to retire. He’s worked a long time and deserves time to relax and spend time with family and friends.” Cowlishaw said that employees were notified ahead of the general announcement: “It was important to us that our employees were informed before the public, and they have been very understanding about Joel’s decision. We are concentrating on business as usual for our employees and customers while we go through this process.”

Although the Pasadena locations are not unionized, Vroman’s voluntarily recognized the Book Soup workers’ union in June 2022; no contract has yet been ratified. Asked how the sale might influence collective bargaining and the contract schedule, Cowlishaw said, “We’ve made progress and don’t anticipate this announcement changing that trajectory.”

Although she said it is “too early in the process to know what new ownership will look like,” Cowlishaw feels “optimistic about the potential. Vroman’s and Book Soup are fortunate to have an amazing group of booksellers and people behind the scenes that continue to be integral to the store’s success. We’ve experienced a lot of change the last four years, and Joel’s decision just feels like the next step in our evolution.”