by Martha I. Fernandez
“Whatever the customer decides they are worth to him or her is accepted as payment.”
This is the policy of a unique bookstore that has become a safe haven for many senior citizen residents of Hillcrest Homes in La Verne who have outlived their financial resources.
Customers decide the price of books, magazines and jigsaw puzzles. Although the policy is unusual, it has been successful.
“I think it is a service to the community,” said Eva Armbruster, co-manager of the shop. “It is good for people who cannot afford to buy new books at the the bookstore. They get to decide the price for themselves, that is reasonable.”
All the proceeds collected are then donated to the Residents Association Benevolent Fund of Hillcrest. This fund has been established to help support residents who have extinguished their savings and pensions. Hillcrest has also established a gift shop, thrift shop and wood shop along with the bookstore to maintain this fund.
“They’ve lived a long time and inflation has caught up with them,” said Armbruster.
The bookstore opened last April and is a cooperative effort of about 22 people. Evelyn Hollinger and Armbruster work as the co-managers of the shop and are in charge of receiving donated books and scheduling the staff.
The old one-bedroom beige house which houses the shop, displays wall-to-wall shelves full of books ranging from cookbooks and textbooks to novels and children’s books. The shelves were donated and others have been built by Hillcrest residents who work at the Hillcrest woodshop. Books are donated by La Verne community members, Hillcrest residents, schools and outsiders willing to give to the cause.
Before, the house was used as a storage facility for books to be sold at Hillcrest’s annual country fair. At the fair, the women first practiced their policy of the customer choosing the price.
“I experimented with it a year ago with rare and old books and we sold them for more than we guessed we might,” said Hollinger.
Hollinger and Armbruster also donate books in Spanish to local schools. Books that have been on the shelves too long are donated to prison ministries, who ship the books to various correctional facilities in the country.
Bookstore dealers or retailers may be limited in the number of books they can buy. This policy is posted to protect the store.
“If there are bookstore sellers we can limit or refuse sales of books to book dealers so they won’t wipe us out and take all our books for $5,” said Hollinger.
The purchase of books is considered a donation that qualifies for tax deduction. Receipts are available upon request.
The bookstore is open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., but remains closed if it is raining. It is located at 2609 Park Ave., north of Kuns Park, and signs are posted on Fridays and Saturdays to direct customers to the shop.
Arrangements can be made to enter the shop at other times with Hollinger or Armbruster or the neighboring houses with residents who have keys.
Donations are welcome at anytime and a table has been placed at the back of the house to collect books. Parking is provided. The gift and thrift shops are located at 2705 Mountain View Dr. The wood shop is at 4307 Park Ave.