While many independent bookstores have had difficulty as the book industry has shifted to electronic models and larger chain stores, Devin credits a loyal customer base as well as, somewhat surprisingly, a surge of younger readers who still find the appeal of a hard copy book with the sustained success of the storefront. Devin estimates that Once Upon a Crime is one of 10-20 bookstores of its kind left in the United States. Once Upon a Crime does, however, also provide a selection of e-books and audiobooks which can be found on their website. They will also ship books anywhere.
A quick walk around the store will reveal how extensive the genre and selection is with sections dedicated to bestsellers, local and international authors, and a variety of topics. It is evident that this is a work of passion as Devin reminisces about bedtime stories courtesy of Arthur Conan Doyle growing up. The Abrahams are avid readers and offer personalized shopping to customers either in-store or over the phone who may be dubious of the genre. Devin is adamant that there is a book in the store for any reader. Once Upon a Crime hosts 60-70 events a year including book signings, readings, and panel discussions from local, national, and even international authors.
In addition to their main space, Once Upon a Crime also features an additional room that is home to first editions, paperbacks, and collectibles among other treasures. This space is just short walk down an apartment basement hallway from the main store kept under lock and key, The Annex trades the shelves of new books for a more rustic feel reminiscent of a study at 221B Baker Street (look it up). Devin has undertaken the daunting task of digitizing the Annex inventory; perhaps the mystery of an unexpected find is half the fun.
With its distinct product and its garden level location, Once Upon a Crime is one of Whittier’s most unique businesses. It has been a staple of 26th Street for more than three decades and with new passionate and dedicated ownership, it will remain that way for years to come. If you haven’t checked out this gem of Whittier, be sure to stop in. The mystery of uncovering a great book could be exactly what you need.