An iconic Beverly Hills newsstand is undergoing changes, most of which will be unnoticed to ordinary passersby on S. Beverly Drive.
But for the longtime owner of the stand, it’s a significant and momentous life change.
Allan Brooks of Al’s Newsstand in Beverly Hills is turning over the business after running it for nearly four decades.
When the change in ownership becomes effective July 30, Al’s Newsstand will go by a new name—which hasn’t been announced yet—and will be under the ownership of the Glendale-based daily newspaper distributor, Mader News, which is taking over both the lease and the business.
During the City Council’s July 18 meeting, the Beverly Hills parking authority approved the assigning of the lease for the business, which is built into the face of a city-owned parking structure at 216 South Beverly Drive.
While the approval was a foregone con- clusion—Brooks credited a city staff person with steering the lease assignment through bureaucracy—it nevertheless marked a tran- sition point for the 82-year-old Brooks and his 35-year-old business, which opened in its current location in October 1988.
In addition to carrying daily newspapers as well as free weekly publications, including the Courier, the newsstand is stocked with a rare collection of vintage magazines. A 1972 edition of Time, in protective plastic sheet, features Woody Allen on the cover. The same goes for a number of decades-spanning Playboy magazines. There are baseball cards for sale along with an assortment of candies. Perhaps most importantly, many residents and busi- nesspeople around the neighborhood know Brooks as the proprietor who always has dog treats for their leashed furry friends when walking by the stand.
Brooks opened Al’s Newsstand with the help of the late Beverly Hills Mayor Benjamin Stansbury. Stansbury, who served as mayor in 1982 and 1987 and was an award-winning product designer, was “very instrumental” in the launch of the business, Brooks said in a recent interview.
“A lot of people who’d been in business and knew what it was to create a business, gave me the opportunity to start the business,” Brooks told the Courier.
At one point in his career, Brooks owned seven newsstands, including one located in the Fairfax District across from Canters Deli and another on the 3rd Street Promenade. Running the Fairfax location, his comfort with Yiddish endeared him to the neighbors at a synagogue located next door.
“I was making a lot of money and a lot of friends,” he said.
Not all the headlines were positive though.
The Santa Monica location was targeted frequently by thefts, and he once had an employee who, unbeknownst to him, was a member of the gang, MS-13. The criminal mas- termind made off with Brooks’ cash register and came to work the next day at the Beverly Hills newsstand, where the cops were waiting.
Criminal incidents aside, Brooks recalled fondly the people he’s interacted with day-to- day on S. Beverly Drive, from the 12-year-old visiting from out of town who was excited to be given a Nolan Ryan baseball card, to the occa- sional pop-in from celebrities Milton Berle, Sidney Poitier and Jay Leno over the years. One of the coolest moments, Brooks said, was when his parents’ visit to the Beverly Drive location coincided with a drop-in from Berle.
“He did two minutes of shtick for my folks, bought his racing form and off he goes,” Brooks said.
The unofficial name for his business, he said, was, “Al’s News and Schmooze.”
“I didn’t go to work,” Brooks said. “I went to play.”
So, why’s he selling if he’s had so much fun? Brooks is legally blind due to age-related macular degeneration, an eye disease that blurs one’s central vision. The leading cause of vision loss for older adults, AMD doesn’t cause complete blindness, but it affects one’s ability to read—an important part of being a newsstand owner, surely—drive and do other close-up work. Brooks, it’s worth noting, doesn’t drive himself.
With his rapidly worsening eye condition, the father of two grown children and grandfa- ther of a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old—would like to dedicate himself more fully to his family.
He refers to this new phase as “semi-retirement.”
The agreement with Mader News, which wasn’t immediately available for comment, provides that Brooks will help them secure old Playboys and other vintage magazines, but he won’t be involved in any of the selling. From the sound of things, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I believe, and I’ve been told, at my age if you stop working and stop doing what you’ve done all your life, diminished cognitive ability grabs ahold of you,” Brooks said. “I’ve seen it happen to too many friends. I need to have something that will keep my interest and will want me to get up in the morning.”