• COMMUNITY CORNER

      We love where we Live and we Love showcasing what the Greater Pasadena area has to offer. We have created this corner to highlight local organizations, businesses, and groups that we feel are an enhancement - and an asset- to our communities. We share their stories with our 150,000+ readers in the belief that vibrant and happy communities are a direct result of events and experiences shared by many in the neighborhoods.

      > Today’s experience comes from the heart of the revitalized Green Street Village.

      The interior of a bookstore with yellow walls and books on shelves

      Century Books (Photo – Ellen Considine)

      “What. . . ? Why are their lights on? Are they open today? And what are they anyway? I gotta stop to check this out!” I parked and stepped inside: “Oh, this is a bookshop. And a small, charming, independent one at that. Wow! This is great! A bookstore opening instead of a bookstore closing? Why haven’t I seen this before? Where have I been?”

      By Mike Pashistoran

      Such was my first initial “review” when I casually drove by Pasadena’s newly opened, special little bookshop in the Green Street Village east of Lake. Meeting owners Judith and Steven Marosvolgyi, bibliophiles-turned-artists-turned-bookshop owners — good people always– was a clear reason for their lovely shop.

      On that January 1, 2012 day I met Century Books for the first time — by chance. The Tournament of Roses Parade was over, and, of course, businesses were all closed as I cruised down the deserted Green Street. Except for this newly opened unique bookshop.

      Soon others would discover the new, used bookshop in Pasadena’s special Green Street Village.

      “Century Books would be right at home on a small avenue in Paris,” reads the description from one customer on their Facebook page.

      Yelp readers give their highest rating, the coveted 5-star review. Just a few examples: “This is the epitome of a mom and pop book store. The couple that runs the store go above and beyond the normal customer service expectations to find the book you are looking for.” “…even though I’ve found many bookstores that I love, they have never lived up to the romantic, cozy book stores I had pieced together in my head that was a combination of Meg Ryan’s book store in You’ve Got Mail and the Beast’s library in Beauty and the Beast. Century Books, however, IS that bookstore.” “This bookstore has a terrific selection and great prices, and as other reviewers have mentioned, the owners are wonderful and knowledgeable.” And this one from a New Yorker in Manhattan: “Kind and understanding staff, …and eclectic collection. A rare gem in Pasadena. Definitely worth a visit.” And so it continues with 5-star reviews.

      I’ve learned more in the nearly eight years since that New Year’s Day, so it’s past time I write something up.

      Steve and Judith, originally from Hungary, are great bibliophiles, artists, collectors, and last but not least — good people. Plus, a visit to Century Books offers you more than books. Live jazz on selected Saturday nights, with the occasional special events such as a guest lecture. Here’s a tip: want a special greeting card? Talk to Steve!

      Books displayed on a table

      Book display at Century Books in Pasadena (Photo – Ellen Considine)

      Perhaps you’ve yet to make your own pilgrimage to Century Books. Recently, the owners provided ColoradoBoulevard.net with some additional information:

      As the owners of Century Books how would you describe your store to a new customer?

      We love books, anything and everything about them, and we hope when people come in our store they feel at home. We love it when people find books that they are looking for, but we also hope that they discover new titles, new interests.

      And how did the name Century Books come to be?

      Steve chose this name many years ago. Books have been around for centuries, and he thought it was the perfect name.

      Of course! And why did you ultimately decide that Pasadena was the place to be?

      We love Pasadena, and most of our friends live in this area, so it was already an easy choice. But what made it even more special is that about 25 years ago we walked through Green Street for the first time, and we fell in love with this beautiful street…It was also very important to us that Pasadena is a reader community.

      What are the strengths of Century Books? Why come to Century Books in particular?

      We hand-pick our books. We try our very best to have an eclectic selection, and we try to get to know what our customers’ interests are so we can find unique titles for them.

      What is a typical day for you as bookshop owners?

      Every morning we scout for more books, trying to find the titles that our customers have been looking for; then we open shop. The work includes everything from cleaning the books to shelving them, organizing them (the most challenging part), planning the special events…The list is huge… At night we are listing books for online sale, which is an important part of our business and it is very time consuming.

      How would you describe your customers?

      Very friendly, well read, and very kind people.

      It’s always been a challenge to run a successful bookstore. Every time I visit Century Books, I see one of you hunched over the computer. Has the Internet been a blessing or a curse for bookshops?

      Both. We wish that we would be able to concentrate on the physical bookshop, but we learned the hard way that it was not possible to survive that way, at least for us as a small bookshop. Although, many times we are in front of the computer working and putting together our events, from jazz nights to lectures, from contacting artists, preparing flyers, sending out e-mails, updating information on Facebook, and the list goes on…But we also spend long hours listing books online because we have to…

      What is unique or special about Century Books compared to most bookshops?

      I must say first that I love all the bookshops, and I think people who love to read, they love to visit all bookstores, and each store has its own unique characteristics. But in most small bookshops, you get a taste of the bookstore owner’s life, a bit of their personality, and there are no two alike. In our case both American and Hungarian cultures influenced us, and our selection reflects that. We offer different cultural events, from live jazz and classical concerts (currently held at Madeline Garden‘s patio across the street) to lectures on different topics, as well as being the home for two book clubs. The wonderful people participating in these events helped us build a community.

      A woamn adjustsa sign advertsing Live Jazz

      Judith, co-owner of Century Books, adjusts the sign in preparation of Live Jazz (Photo – Staff).

      Judith and Steve are originally from Hungary. When in Hungary should do as the Hungarians do, but to book-loving visitors to their country of birth, they would have this to say: “It’s been a very long time since we’ve been to Hungary, and a lot of things have changed. But you’ll always find wonderful bookstores when you travel to Hungary!”

      If I’ve made this sound like a wonderful story (“and they lived happily ever after”), it is! I could write on and on about Century Books. But I also know the reality is it’s a business in a tough industry — selling quality, primarily used books, on paper, in a digital age. A bookshop can have a long life only if loyal customers continue to show loyalty and new readers discover it.

      Which reminds me: it’s time to pay another visit to Century Books! Just doing my small part in giving it a chance for a long life like our other Pasadena bookstore, Vroman’s!

      If you’ve been to Century Books, or plan to visit, please share your thoughts on this Pasadena book gem!

      Century Books
      1031 E Green St, 
      Pasadena, CA 91106
      (626) 344-6411. 
      (Check their latest events here).
      

      Mike Pashistoran is Community Reporter and a resident of Pasadena.

       

      Editor’s Note: This article has been updated from its original posting back in August 2015.

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      Contributor

      Comments

      1. Ramanuj Basu says:

        Century Books is one of the Pasadena places I’ve missed most since moving to Sedona, and one I’m always sure to visit on my trips back. I’m so glad to see them getting this attention. Thank you!

        If you love books and you haven’t been (and even if you have!), treat yourself to a visit. You’ll be glad you did.

      2. Nancy Morley says:

        I live around the corner from the bookstore, and it is one of the reasons my husband and I decided to buy our condo here. Green Street and Century Books reminded us of the Village i–Greenwich, that is.

        You were right about Judy and Steve–they are booklovers but most importantly “good people” who treat their fellow bibliophiles like friends. I know that I can stop by anytime just to say hello and always greeted with a hug.

        Nancy Morley

      3. Lynette Hawkins says:

        Very cool. I will have to check this one out next time I am in Pasadena. I was just thinking of taking a trip over there to shop around for fun. Going next month to proctor.

      4. Kelly Hopper Moore says:

        Truly an amazing gem that transcends books! Gifts, discovery, charm, beauty, and neighborly warmth!

      5. Laurie Barlow says:

        Great interview about this little spot.

      6. Terrence Butcher says:

        Nice place, charming owner!

      7. Ellen Considine says:

        My husband and I love Century Books as well. It is such a great addition to Pasadena and Green Street Village. Judith and Steve remember what books or authors you are interested in and will tuck something away for when you stop in again (this is something you may have mentioned to them, this is not a formal request which they will of course fulfill if possible). They are so low-key in terms of selling, yet passionate and very art-oriented; it is truly a unique ‘salon’ nestled in our community.

      8. Bruce Hedges says:

        Great article! You really gave a lot of good information about the bookstore and the wonderful owners. They are its greatest asset! They put out a lot of effort to make every visitor’s experience enjoyable, as well as providing the books that readers are looking for.

        • Mike says:

          Thanks, Bruce! I could’ve given a whole lot more “good information” as regulars to Century Bks would know! But let’s not take them, or any other business, for granted. We need to continue to support them!

      9. Sharon Hawley says:

        I tried to comment. The site does not allow comments.!!

        • Staff says:

          Hi Sharon,
          thank you for your feedback.
          Your comments are in moderation and have been accepted. A new feature of the site does not provide feedback to the user; we may need to rethink how we moderate our comments.

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