Our Story

Founded in 1966 by local mom and artist Jane Humphrey, Once Upon A Time has been a magical place for thousands of children and adults alike throughout the years. In April 2003, after 37 years as owner, Jane decided to retire but no one was interested in buying a bookstore. The Palacios family, by way of our then 9-year old daughter Jessica’s letter-to–the-editor and her now famous question: "Where will I find my fifth Harry Potter book if there is no Once Upon A Time?" became the proud and inexperienced owners of a community treasure. With love and support from many people near and far, the bookstore has continued as a Montrose icon and nationally recognized success where generations of readers have discovered their favorite books, met inspiring authors and illustrators LIVE and IN-PERSON, and developed a love of reading to last a lifetime.  Come in and experience the fairytale yourself. 

Jane Humphrey Founder of Once Upon A Time Bookstore, photo curtesy of Glendale News Press

Jane Humphrey, Founder of Once Upon A TIme Bookstore

Palacios Family from left to right Maureen, Jorge, Amelia, and Jessica - Current owners of Once Upon A Time

The Palacios family in 2017 (Maureen, Jorge, Amelia, and Jessica)

In 2008, Publisher's Weekly announced that Once Upon a Time was the nation's oldest children's bookstore. In 2015, Once Upon a Time was awarded the prestigious Women's National Book Association Pannell Award, given annually to a bookstore whose community contributions stimulate, promote, and encourage children’s and young people’s interest in books.  In 2016, California State Senator Carol Liu (District 25), named Once Upon a Time as the California Small Business of the Year in her district, representing about 930,000 people in the 25th Senate District, which includes Burbank, Bradbury, Glendale, Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, Altadena, San Marino, Shadow Hills, Atwater Village, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Sunland-Tujunga, Monrovia, Duarte, San Dimas, La Verne, Claremont, Glendora, and Upland. In 2018, Once Upon A Time was honored by the Montrose Chamber of Commerce with the Community Endearment Award. In August 2019, we were voted as CV Weekly's The Finest Family Bookstore for the 8th year in a row!

We are proud to be independent booksellers, with a unique combination of superb customer service and fast special order fulfillment. One of our strengths, besides our store's obvious charming ambiance, is our book selection: we continue to carry only QUALITY children’s books and an intelligently curated choice of books for the entire family. With an open heart, we have built a community-based neighborhood store that spurs imagination, whimsy, and a passion for reading.

There's more to a bookstore than the books on the shelves. When you buy a book or other merchandise from Once Upon a Time, part of the price you pay goes to:

  • Support our friendly, hardworking, knowledgeable staff

  • Support local schools, teachers & librarians

  • Support dozens of local, national & international charities and service organizations

No part of the price you pay goes to:

  • Remote corporate headquarters where decisions are based solely on maximizing profits

  • Absentee owners who don't work in the store or live in the community

At Once Upon a Time we are dedicated to doing business as a responsible member of our community. When you shop at Once Upon a Time, you join with us in building community.

Our store’s location, 2207 Honolulu, is nestled next to mouth-watering Zeke’s BBQ at the east end of Honolulu Avenue in the beautiful, tree-shaded 3-block long Montrose Shopping Park.  Be sure to experience all our store’s delights and while you are here – visit our neighbors for a bite! 

Awards & Accolades:

In the News:

Maureen and Jessica on a big screen TV on set at the Kelly Clarkson Show all decked out for the holidays, photo provided by the show

See Once Upon a Time on the Kelly Clarkson Show and press coverage during the pandemic by Mary McNamara in the LA Times. We were one store in Montrose featured in a national (CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley) clip on Small Business Saturday as well as on KTLA Weekend Morning Show and read our bookselling feature on the international travel blog Lonley Planet.

Screenshot of Los Angeles Times Column: America's oldest children's books is struggling in the pandemic. But there's hope by Mary McNamara

Once Upon a Time Bookstore – an independent community bookstore for the entire family

Harry Potter Audiobooks through Libro.fm

Staff Picks

Matt Wallace’s middle grade debut is a fast-paced dynamic story of 12-year old MJ who dreams of becoming a lucha libre – or wrestler. This unconventional sport has been shared & loved with MJ’s dad, Papi, who is now no longer in MJ and her mom’s life. Hiding the truth from herself (& readers), MJ goes to great lengths to avoid seeing her dad. MJ’s poor treatment by her former gymnastic teammates has alienated her as well as the struggling to make sense of middle school dynamics. Finding an outlet for her joy, friendship and a chance of being in the ring wrestling to “storytell”, her next door neighbor, Mr. Arellano, has offered her a chance to train at his wrestling academy. I was totally enthralled by the deep character development and uber-realistic scenes Wallace has painted with respect to MJ’s relationship with her now-single parent Mom as well as the wrestling basics & behind-the-scene techniques. The secondary plot of a cruel and vengeful athletic commissioner who wants to shut down Mr. Arellano’s academy leads to a hair-raising climax where MJ needs to save the day. Girls who enjoy sports that may not be typically portrayed in MG literature will shout for joy with MJ’s perseverance, her can-do attitude, as well as her vulnerabilities. This novel rings as true as the bell at the end of a match – A WINNER! - Reviewed by Maureen