Whether it’s sneaking upstairs to sit near the window in the poetry room at City Lights or sinking into the big red chair at Diesel, the Bay Area has some of the most revered and iconic independent bookstores. For me, these stores are sacred ground—cherished spaces where I can browse the world of ideas and experience culture.
I firmly believe having a local bookstore enriches a community. It seems clear in uncertain times, community is what we rely on to get through the day—whether that’s a community of like-minded friends, co-workers, or neighbors, or the businesses in the neighborhoods where we shop. As social creatures, we seek the camaraderie of peers for companionship and understanding.
Throughout the East Bay, there are many trusted bookstores that anchor the communities they serve (Laurel Book Store, Walden Pond Books, Mrs. Dalloway’s, Pegasus, Owl & Company, Diesel, Marcus Book Store, Books Inc.) and each is worthy of an idle afternoon.
While it was sad to see some of my favorite stores close over the years (Modern Times, Black Oak, Cody’s, Stacey’s), it’s comforting to see stores like Walden Pond (which has been open for 40 years) and exciting newcomers like E.M. Wolfman (which features an art gallery, art events, and innovative publishing.) In fact, Diesel Books’ owners are ready to move on and recently announced their desire to transfer the store to longtime employee Brad Johnson who is making plans to take over.
Bookstores offer connection to community and culture—connecting ideas and bringing together like-minded people, serving as cultural institutions in our neighborhoods. Where else can we meet authors, browse with relative anonymity, and get exposure to such a wealth of great writing and commentary shaping our world?
Bookstore staff add value to this experience. As real people with real opinions who help us locate things, make suggestions, and reveal details about books and authors that we wouldn’t otherwise know, they enhance our experience of being there in physical proximity to books. Plus, bookstore owners have a commitment to our neighborhoods, making them better, by hiring local people and paying local sales and property taxes. This translates to local jobs and tax revenues that support schools, roads, and infrastructure within our very own communities. You don’t get that when you shop a massive online retailers.
LOAKL was founded on the idea that bookstores are vital and we need to shop at them in person and online. We’re aiming to make it easier to find books across all the local independent bookstores in our area, to help keep dollars within our community. We source our inventory from local bookstores (for a full list of bookstores we source from and links to their sites check here.)
We believe when customers can find what they want in their neighborhood easily—and support community in the process—there will be no need to go elsewhere.
In 2017, it’s more important than ever that we vote with our dollars to help create the connections and community we want to see in the world. One way to do this is to show local bookstores a little more love. Next time you walk by your favorite bookstore, stop in and tell the person behind the counter how much you appreciate all that they do and why the store holds special significance for you. And maybe more importantly, remember that next time you’re thinking about ordering something online. If we all change our buying behavior, a little love can go a long way.