Before Page Against The Machine emerged as an idea for a bookstore, owner Chris Giaco had always loved books.
It was his first true love and passion.
Giaco used to own a vintage store called In Retrospect, located on Fourth Street’s Retro Row in Long Beach. There, he had a small collection of books up for sale, but those books were not about political theory and ideology.
“At these Fourth Street events, we were having pop-up vendors inside and outside the vintage store,” Giaco said. “So, I thought I would do a pop-up for myself and that’s when I came up with the name Page Against The Machine.”
The name was inspired by the Los Angeles-based rock band that formed in 1991, Rage Against The Machine.
“The store is a homage to the band,” Giaco said. “The lyrics all deal with socio-political things, much like the books here.”
The vintage store would officially close on Feb. 25, 2018, after sales declined and the rent increased. Giaco embraced the role of being a book vendor and shortly after a year, he took his idea of becoming a bookstore owner and officially opened on April 1, 2019.
“I was always interested in politics and activism,” Giaco said. “The two kind of blended together at the right place and at the right time.”
In recent years, e-books and online ordering have shaken the bookstore industry with declining sales, lay-offs and store closures. Independently owned bookstores have emerged with their own distinctive curation of books, like PATM’s books, which include topics like socially-conscious theory and political sustainability.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, smaller bookstores adjusted to the declining sales by engaging with their community. PATM hosted readings, exhibitions and discussion groups in the past which brought people from everywhere to walk through its doors.
“I think it’s important to have a bookstore in the community that has a cultural tone,” Alicia del Campo, a professor who teaches Latin American Literature at Long Beach State, said. “I think books are wonderful in a way that brings people together around ideas.”
Del Campo is also a local Long Beach resident who visited the bookstore for the first time after a friend had brought her inside before lunch.
PATM was forced to shut down in March. It wasn’t until mid-June, according to Giaco, when the store reopened for online ordering. The closure has had a huge financial impact on the bookstore and throughout Retro Row.
According to Giaco, the bookstore also received an abundant amount of book donations from Long Beach community members, although some books were turned down because it did not fit the curated theme. This was another important aspect of the bookstore’s survival during the summer.
“It is great to see an independent bookstore making it, the timing of this was impeccable,” Jim Coke, a photographer who had an exhibition at PATM before the pandemic, said. “Chris provides the space, curates all the books and provides people with an opportunity to present their views.”
The shutdown gave the community an incentive for people to shop locally and to keep their money circulating locally, too, Giaco explained, as he sat on a grey cushioned chair with a backdrop of books.
After being open for over slightly one year, the bookstore’s future depends on the duration of the pandemic.
“I feel like people were wanting this store here,” Giaco said. “It’s weird. The store gets thanked for being here sometimes.”