THE ART OF DETECTION’e2’80’99s tour is officially over, after Friday’e2’80’99s event in Half Moon Bay and Saturday in Santa Cruz. These two stores are shining examples of how to succeed in an unfriendly world: be outgoing, run your life with efficiency, and participate fully in your community.
Bay Book and Tobacco (yes, really’e2’80’94although in answer to your next question, no, the place doesn’e2’80’99t stink of cigarette smoke. They have a tidy and self-contained humidified room containing very high class cigars, the idea being that people after books will pick up a cigar, and people after cigars will stop to peruse the titles. I will say, this audience had more men than usual.)
Where was I? Right’e2’80’94Bay Book in Half Moon Bay is in a shopping center in a small town that gets a lot of tourist traffic. They first came to my attention in 1998 or ‘e2’80’939, when I was asked to drop in and sign some books. I did so, and was casually told that they’e2’80’99d sold 140 copies of FOLLY the year before. Hardcover.
That’e2’80’99s a lot of books for a small store. I think they must have pressed a copy on every person who came in, maybe tripping them and jamming one into their purse before they could get up. But it’e2’80’99s a small town with a population of locals who don’t always want to drive over hills for entertainment (and anyway they’re regulary cut off from San Francisco by the collapse of portions of the same road where Mary Russell lost her family) so they drop in to the bookstore. At the same time, weekenders escaping the heat of the central valley find the coastal fog conducive to leisurely reading. Some day, one of the chains may think Half Moon Bay worth their while, but not for now.
Bookshop Santa Cruz is the first bookstore I remember shopping in. When I was a kid my family used libraries, period, and although I remember lots of books, I never owned very many until I hit university. Bookshop is about to celebrate its 40th anniversary. It used to be in a funky brick building that collapsed during the 1989 quake, at which time they set up shop in a tent out back. Booktent Santa Cruz (they’e2’80’99ve left a sign in the new shop, back near the toilets) was where we did all out gift shopping for the years until they rebuilt, and now they’e2’80’99ve been in this shiny and no longer so new building for, the new owner/manager tells me, for thirteen years. Neal Coonerty’e2’80’99s family still is in charge, as Neal moves on to run larger things as a county supervisor.
As an indicator of the place a bookshop can hold in the heart of its community, thirteen years ago when Bookshop was ready to move from the tent into its new digs, they used a human chain of volunteers to shift cartons of books down the street and in the front door. And they had more people show up than there was room for on the street.
I love bookstores, especially the independents. And I’e2’80’99ll be there for Bookshop’e2’80’99s birthday party in early November.