Flintridge Bookstore Will Move Into Bank’s Former Space

Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
The building at 858 Foothill Blvd. will house the bookstore owned by Peter and Lenora Wannier, who plan a move in February.

The Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse is set to move to the building formerly occupied by Citizens Business Bank for more than two decades — a space at the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Beulah Drive — and the Kumon Math and Reading Center will take up residence alongside it.
Peter Wannier, who owns the bookstore with his wife, Lenora, recently sold their building for $4.9 million to Alan Pezeshkian, president of Glendale-based mortgage banking company HouseAmerica, and was looking for a new location. The bookstore will be located at 858 Foothill, an easy walk from its present digs at 1010 Foothill.
“It’s a very attractive space,” Wannier said of the future location in a recent interview. “It’s right across from Sprouts [Farmers Market], which is nice. There’s a lot of people coming and going, and it’s a popular store around here. [The locale] also has two crosswalks, which our present bookstore does not. I think for people walking, it’s a little easier access. There’s good parking in the back — that’s always a plus in this town.”
Wannier signed a five-year lease with a three-year option. He plans to move sometime in February and sell just books, not coffee.
Building owner Alex Venneri said that the bookstore’s lease begins on Feb. 1 and that he expected the Kumon tenants — who also signed a five-year lease — to move in May. Citizens Business Bank moved to a location at City Hall in October.
Alain Argonza, who co-owns the Kumon operation moving to Venneri’s building, explained last week to the Planning Commission why he and his wife wanted to relocate during a hearing on a request for a minor conditional use permit to allow a new tutoring use at 850 Foothill Blvd.
He said his business is strong and the new location affords more space for students to be dropped off and picked up.
“That would work well for the community,” Argonza said.
The couple will be vacating 1051 Foothill Blvd. in favor of the new location, he said.
Venneri said he was “very, very happy” to have the bookstore and Kumon as tenants.
“I have been very cautious so far in who I wanted to attract to come to the area,” Venneri said. “I live in the area. I really want to have the right type of tenancy. … Those two work very well and go hand in hand. Each will feed off each other. If any of the kids’ parents need books, they’ll go next door. Kumon is selling books, but not the way the bookstore is.”
Venneri, who said there are 41 parking spaces for his properties from 846-858 Foothill, noted he was previously in negotiations with a “major franchisee” fast-food place for the former bank office, but he did not think it was a good fit.
“I didn’t think that was something La Cañada wanted or needed and that was my assumption,” Venneri said. “We didn’t do that. How many landlords are going to hold off when you got a vacant building? I’m really taking my time in getting the right people in there.”
But at the Planning Commission meeting, LCF Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Pat Anderson spoke against granting Kumon the permit because of what she said is a “disturbing trend” in the city to move away from retail.
“This trend poses some negative consequences in the city,” Anderson told the commission. “It reduces the amount of sales tax revenues the city receives from the state. Reducing this revenue stream will have an impact on the many city services that our businesses and residents have come to rely on.”
Anderson listed about 20 retail businesses that have left, starting with an Aaron Brothers art store on Foothill that is now an Exer Urgent Care facility.
“The new property owners are increasing rents to the point where independent retail cannot afford to stay,” Anderson said. “They’re creating their own problem. Then property owners demand the city change zoning codes to fit their need. What is being done to reach out to all commercial property owners and assist them when vacancies occur?”
Anderson said she was just trying to create awareness of the issue as well as “a sense of urgency to the point where a plan might be in place to reverse this negative trend.”
Argonza said that his company will sell stationery and that because his business encourages its students to read, it would be supportive of the bookstore.
Commissioner Henry Oh said he understood Anderson’s concerns, but felt the situation is driven by consumer demands and the market. He also felt the business’ move from a previous location makes a new space available for retail.
Commission chair Mike Hazen thanked Anderson for the “eye-opening” comment.
“I think this is a byproduct of what you get in an affluent community,” Hazen said. “It is a bit self-indulgent oftentimes. You have the money, so you can. Pilates and exercise [businesses] where you can take care of yourself and take care of your kids. It’s a sad reality, but that’s how I look at it. But to turn down a business because of the condition we have in our city, I don’t see any way I can do that.”
He added at this point there is no parking issue for Kumon but noted future conditional use permits for businesses will likely be a challenge because of limited parking spaces in the city, but “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
The commission voted to approve the project.

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