The Last Word Bookshop

Pile of books

What: The Last Word Bookshop, 220 S. 40th St.

Why: Late last month Last Word moved its entire operation, lock, stock and 50,000 used books, from its original home on the 3900 block of Walnut Street to new digs on the “busy” block of 40th Street adjacent to Ben & Jerry’s. Owner Larry Maltz pulled a couple of all-nighters to get the boxes and boxes of second-hand books moved to their new shelves.

How the new space stacks up: The new Last Word is eerily similar to the old Last Word, right down to the black and white checkerboard floor tiles and the cozy air of controlled chaos. “I would’ve stayed [on Walnut Street) forever,” says Maltz, who managed South Street’s Book Trader for many years before opening his own store, “but the funny thing is, I’m happier here. There’s more foot traffic and all the old customers are coming back. I’m delighted to be in.”

How many bookshelves Maltz has built: 16 so far for the new space. Since he started in the book business: “More than 200. I could make one with my eyes closed.”

What Penn folks buy: “We sell loads of literary fiction, history books, art, science, just about everything,” says Maltz, who stocks the store with books he buys from walk-in customers as well as people selling off collections or liquidating libraries.

How Maltz balances work and life: He doesn’t, since he’s always carting home boxes of books to sort. “Look at the messiest corner of the store and that’s the tidiest room in my house.”

Who’s the feline?: That would be Lester, the black and white former stray who already, says Maltz, is feeling quite at home. “She loves to sit in the window, and she also loves to climb the bookshelves.”

Repeat offenders: Certain books, says Maltz, turn up again and again in the boxes people bring in to sell. Tom Clancy and Stephen King, for example. He does stock those mass-market titles, he says, “but we don’t sell nearly as many as people seem to think we do.”

What makes him tick: Five or six times a year, Maltz finds a “really interesting” collection, such as a series of out-of-print British history books or a great collection of philosophy books. “Those get snapped up like crazy,” he says.

The Last Word Bookshop, at 220 S. 40th St. is open 10 a.m. to
10 p.m. 215-386-7750

Originally published on January 18, 2007