Bodhi Tree Bookstore Through the Ages

Melrose Avenue is one of the most colorful streets in West Hollywood. It is famous for its majestic blue and green Pacific Design Center, its modern art galleries, its glamorous eateries and its high fashion outlets. But in 1970, it was a quiet shady street lined with small, low key businesses and the property of the Pacific Design Center was a sprawling lumber yard.

    Ficus Tree



The Bodhi Tree Bookstore started its life on Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood occupying a modest former two bedroom, California style stucco building built in the 1920s and converted to a store front. We cut holes in some walls to open up the space and used the kitchen as our first office. The main room had a dramatic, large window with a rounded top that looked out West over the lawn towards the Hull Brothers Lumber Company and what is now the Pacific Design Center building. The following pictures show the inside construction work and how the Bodhi Tree Bookstore looked during the early 1970s.


Cutting through a wall.

The area that became the entrance.

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore and Crew in the early seventies.
At the front entrance on Melrose Avenue.
From left to right: Jim B, Lori F, Elsa T,
Janet M, Fran M, Stan M, and Rachel T in front.

The first entrance and sales area, with Art L and Judy L.

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore in the middle 1970s,
looking East, showing the front lawn area
and the Used Book building.

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore as it looked in
late 70s from Melrose Avenue, looking East

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore as it looked in
late 70s from Melrose Avenue, looking West.

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore in the early 1970s.
This is the picture from which a drawing was
made for the Bodhi Tree Gift Certificate.



Inside the store during the 1970s, the walls were lined with handcrafted, natural redwood bookcases, the floors had oriental area rugs, and there were chairs and zafus (small, round cushions used in meditation halls) and zabutons (large, flat pads on which the zafus are placed) for comfortable seating. The following pictures give some idea of what the original store looked like inside up to about 1983.


The main room in early 1970s showing rugs,
sitting pillows and the original fireplace
(where the "Psychology" bookcase is now located).


The original art bookshelf during the 1970s.

The main room in late 1970s with
readers searching the shelves.

The main room looking out through
the large window (fish eye lens).

One of the side rooms, it is now the present
customer service area (fish eye lens).

The main area looking towards the art bookshelf, towards the
area which is now the customer service area (fish eye lens).



In 1978, we acquired the building next door on Westbourne Avenue and inaugurated what became the vital and treasured Used Book Branch. It is a building very much like the original book store building, being a store front converted from a two-bedroom, single story, California stucco building. It too is a series of connected rooms, with hardwood floors and lined with bookcases.


A view inside the Used Book branch in about 1980,
showing Janet M at the front register with some
of the handcrafted stuffed animals that we used
to sell as part of the used book array.



By 1982, with approximately 18,000 titles, the Bodhi Tree Bookstore inventory had grown to such an extent that the aisles were jammed leaving little room for people to move about. The original building only had about 1000 square feet of retail sales area. Rather than move, we elected to expand the existing building. We built all around the original house and added a second floor for offices and overstock. The sales floor increased to nearly 3000 square feet. The Bodhi Tree Bookstore building became a modernist cube with a large, round signature window facing Melrose Avenue. In about 1997, we acquired the storefront directly next door on Melrose Avenue. This building, with its faintly Moorish design, became the Bodhi Tree Annex where we hold author booksigning events and other programs pertaining to the spiritual community.

The Bodhi Tree Bookstore has grown into a flourishing landmark with its roots strongly grounded in the spiritual community. It is a way station for eclectic spirits -- for people interested in bridging the insights drawn from Eastern and Western religious and mystical literature. Lining the walls are pictures of authors, seers, sages, senseis, prophets, gurus, imams and rebbes benignly blessing all who pass within. Among the soothing sounds one hears are the tinkling of chimes, the subtle strains of classical and world music mixed with the buzz of seeker's conversations. From the beginning there has been (and still is) pots of free herbal tea and a container of free "mystery" incense on the front counter. In the book "Joy's Way", Brugh Joy mentioned experiencing a consciousness breakthrough while in the store. Many others have commented that the nature of the material found here and the sense of the physical space have helped them open into consciousness and find their place in the cosmos.

On a lazy Sunday afternoon in the early 1980s, actress Shirley MacLaine wandered into the Bodhi Tree Bookstore and embarked on a journey which changed her life, the life of the bookstore and the spiritual life of mainstream America. She described her visits to the Bodhi Tree in her book "Out on a Limb", in which she revealed her study and exploration of reincarnation, trance channeling and other metaphysical matters. A multi-part television program was made based on the book and part of it was filmed at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore. The Used Book Branch was used for the filming because it retained the look of the original building.

The following pictures show the Bodhi Tree Bookstore as it looks now, during the 2000s.


View of the front of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore,
looking East, about 2000.

View of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore from
Melrose Avenue, about 2000

View of the Bodhi Tree Bookstore looking West towards
the Pacific Design Center showing the Annex Meeting room,
about 2000.



The following pictures are of the inside of the store and provide a sense of its atmosphere with its small, intimate rooms with wooden bookcases, chairs for relaxed browsing and the displays of spiritual statuary, incense, wind chimes and other colorfull objects.


The front window with the large stained glass Sri Yantra, about 2000


Inside the store showing the front desk showcase and part of "Psychology".

Inside the store showing the "New Arrival" area.

Inside the store showing the "Psychology" area.

Inside the store showing the "Judaica area".


Bodhi Tree's Bodhi Tree

In the middle 1970s, Carl F, a neighbor living on Westmount, one street away, gave us a small potted bodhi tree (ficus religiosa) that he had grown from seed. It stayed in the pot for several years growing to about six feet high. When we re-modeled the store in 1983, we planted the tree in the back area. By 2000, the tree reached a height of some forty feet and a trunk diameter of nearly eighteen inches. Sitting under it provides inspiration, shade, and respite -- a place where staff members gather to talk, read or rejuvenate. It is our place of sanctuary. The following pictures show the bodhi tree in its full glory.


The Bodhi Tree "tree". Ficus Religiosa

The trunk and part of the branches of the Bodhi Tree "tree"

© 1970-2014 by Bodhi Tree Bookstore. All rights reserved.