Adam Bernales and Denice Diaz knew it would be difficult to open a bookstore in East L.A. When they launched Seite Books four years ago, the area had never had an independent, nonreligious bookstore. The closest chain store was a Borders in Pico Rivera. It started slowly but the inventory has since grown from a few hundred books to about 25,000. The selection is unapologetically highbrow — Gaddis, Duras, Genet — but it also has become a popular spot for zines and Spanish-language books. The building is in sharp contrast to the impressive titles: It's located in a former check-cashing business, with the office behind bulletproof glass. —Gene Maddaus
417 N. Rowan Ave., East L.A., 90063. (323) 526-1369, seitebooks.com.