Friday, July 31, 2009

WAHRENBROCK'S BOOK HOUSE, RIP: A Letter from Dennis Wills

Wahrenbrock's Book House, a literary resource in San Diego for decades, has suddenly closed it's doors forever. Information about the reason for the abrupt closure is scant, and the loss of this store leaves a significant gap in San Diego's reading and cultural life. Bookseller Dennis Wills, owner of D.G.Wills Books , was a good friend of the esteemed late owner Chuck Valverde and wrote this letter to all who've loved and found solace in Wahrenbrock's crowded stacks, finding the odd, the unusual, the rare, the crucial book they had in mind when they entered the store. Dennis expresses as well as anyone can the gravity of the loss:

To whom it may concern:

I have just learned that Wahrenbrock's Book House will close. While I remain unaware of any pertinent details which may have led to such a decision, I heartily implore any powers that be to reconsider the grave and momentous implications of such a decision. Sylvia Beach, publisher of James Joyce's Ulysses and owner of the renowned Shakespeare and Company in Paris, the most famous bookstore in the world at the time, was compelled to close down the store in the 1940s only because occupying German soldiers threatened to confiscate their inventory.

While Vernon Wahrenbrock may have founded Wahrenbrock's Book House in San Diego in 1935, for two generations booksellers and book buyers from around the world have come to know this flagship bookshop repository in this part of the United States as entirely a reflection of the work and the personality of Chuck Valverde and his very able colleague Jan Tonnesen. While Chuck is no longer with us in person, his legacy continues onward as reflected by the vast holdings of inventory available to the many thousands of gentle book lovers who seek out Wahrenbrock's from throughout the world, but also from the thousands of arcane and unusual items listed on the internet. To deny the book public throughout the world access to these vast holdings would be a terrible tragedy.

I sincerely hope and implore that some transitional equation may be created that will allow the legacy of Chuck Valverde to continue. The loss not only to the world but especially to the countless thousands of San Diegans who frequent Wahrenbrock's constantly is inestimable and unimaginable.


Dennis G. Wills
D.G.Wills Books
La Jolla Cultural Society


  1. Anonymous8:35 PM PDT

    I don't live in the area, but it always a very sad thing when we lose a book store, or any business that has a personality, and this one sounds like it had it in droves.

  2. I've been a regular — and very satisfied — customer at Wahrenbrock's since I moved to San Diego 26 years ago. I rarely left the store empty handed. But the store was more than a great place to find good books, it was a wonderful world of its own. Presided over by Chuck and Jan the staff was always friendly and helpful. Though I rarely entered into the conversation, it was always a delight to eavesdrop while browsing. After Chuck died, I feared that decision-making regarding the future of the store might pass into the hands of people who didn't "get it." Jan said one day that the building had been sold, and hinted that that might effect the future of the store at some point. But the closing came so suddenly — I went downtown last Saturday, made a stop at the central library and then wandered over to Wahrenbrock's, only to find the store (literally) "boarded up." It was a black day. I too hope someone will reconsider the decision to keep the store closed. Move it, if necessary, but give us back our store.

  3. Anonymous12:25 PM PDT

    Make EDUCATED comments!!

    You should all be aware that Wahrenbrocks, although a GREAT store, has been losing money for a long long time according to my source. Sadly, for the coporation the income made, did not make enough to cover it expenses. . The last year and this year, it lost quite a bit.

  4. Anonymous2:18 PM PDT

    Listen, folks. It was bound to happen. It is happening all over the country and the world. It is sad, but welcome to the 21st century. There's no way for a used book store to survive these days, to pay salaries and electrical bills, insurance, rent... when people buy the one book they want, sitting at home in their underwear at 2am in front of the computer. We may all miss the "good old days" of the used booksttore the way we miss the good old days of black and white tv, polio and tb. You can't stop progress. Enjoy what you have while you have it. RIP, Chuck. You were a fine human being.

  5. Anonymous12:17 PM PST

    That was the last old bookstore in downtown San sad. I remember 5 or 6 bookstores in downtown form mid 80's. Then the internet came and by one they left home. I can understand that things must change, but the closing of Wharenbrocks was the last indication how modern tech has made itself known immensely. A classic beautiful bookstore. 3 levels with wall to wall books. It had it's own perticular smell from age if anyone could remember. It will sorely be missed.
    I was just plannig to go down there this week.
    I'm glad that I got to meet 4 or five chaps from there, including the owner that passed. Thanks for fondest memories. They will stay with me forever.


  6. Started going in there when I was about 12 😥sad to hear that they closed.


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