April 20, 2024

Tucked away in the back corner of a historic building across from the Mission Inn in downtown Riverside sits a small bookstore with an enthusiastic staff, retro atmosphere and a wide selection of books.

Downtowne Bookstore sells a wide range of used books and was purchased by its current owners, sisters Nadia and Vira Lee, in 2002.

Downtowne Bookstore is situated in the back portion of a building at 3582 Main Street in Riverside.

It is unknown who owned the building originally, but in 1927, it was acquired by the En- terprise newspaper. The build- ing served in various other ca- pacities including a record store until 1979 when it became the Universal Bookstore. In 1981 it was acquired by the Feree family who owned it until 2002 when the Lee sisters bought it, fulfilling their lifelong dream of owning a bookstore together.

A rack of books out in the middle of the sidewalk with a sign reading “Downtowne Bookstore” directs you down the backside of an old, stucco building and along a fence covered in green shrubbery to the entrance.

As you enter, you will be greeted with a friendly “hello” by one of the sisters or their employees and the sound of the old floor creaking under your feet. There is a pleasant vintage smell of old wood and paper throughout the store with bookshelf upon bookshelf from most genres at bargain prices.

Raymond Curran, sophomore civil engineering major, said he enjoyed the decorations of the store and its style.

“The vibe was retro antique style. I like how they set it up; there are little trinkets and little comic pictures on shelves that make walking around the bookstore fun,” Curran said. According to Nadia Lee, one of the owners, the store keeps a variety of genres in stock. They are ready to serve anyone who is in downtown Riverside.

“There is no set demographic. We get a lot of people from the hotels, a little from the convention center, colleges and then jurors at the court house.

We have a little of everything except textbooks, unless they are collectible,” Lee said.

Nadia and Vira Lee are calming, friendly people who love what they do at the bookstore, as do their employees. Kemal Bajramovic, an employee, said he enjoys working at Down- towne Bookstore.

“It is really cool store. The two owners are some of the best business owners I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” Bajramovic said.

This store is a bit of a hidden gem, and even locals are surprised to discover it. However, with affordable prices, a charm- ing atmosphere and friendly staff, it is certainly a worthwhile local business to check out.

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