More than 300 people—among them Isabel Allende, Robert Crais, Matt Groening and former Los Angeles mayor Richard Riordan—gathered in the courtyard of Dutton's Brentwood Books on March 30 to pay tribute to owner Doug Dutton and to say good-bye to the beloved store, which will close its doors on April 30.

Speaking to the gathering, author and co-owner Diane Leslie said, “Dutton's has been my university. It's taught me how to treat and nurture others, as I've been nurtured here myself. It's now our intention to take all we learned and use it in the world for the greater good.”

The store, originally founded in 1961 and taken over by Dutton in 1984, could not survive its big debt after the closing of its Beverly Hills location in 2007, as well as the planned restructuring of the building in which it is housed in Brentwood.

A silent auction, with proceeds tagged to cover Dutton's closing costs, raised about $5,000. L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan's winning bid got him the Penguin doorstop utilized in the west building of the store, as well as a signed Diana Ross cardboard cutout that advertised her Secrets of a Sparrow when it was published in 1995. The placard's wilting frame and frayed edges seemed synonymous with the bookstore's emptying shelves.

“It seems impossible, a world without Doug Dutton selling books,” said S&S sales rep Laura Webb. “He took care of all of us—his reps, his authors and his customers. I will miss him and look forward to the day we celebrate his return to bookselling.” Given the retail climate in Southern California, that may be wishful thinking. But Dutton hinted at “several offers that have come my way, some of which I'm considering.” In the meantime, he'll concentrate on music. A highly regarded classical pianist, Dutton teaches at both Los Angeles City College and the Colburn School for Music.

Cheryl Clark, a 15-year employee of Dutton's, spoke of the difficult future that lies ahead for her, as well as for several other longtime workers. “We all eschewed more lucrative jobs in order to live out our passion for the world of books,” she said. “My identity is about to undergo a profound change: I have to get over being a bookseller.”