FEATURED INDIE: Bookshop Santa Cruz

Here at Atelier26, we love shining a light on America's best independent booksellers. Independents and their staff are in the business of knowing their neighborhoods, clientele, and clientele's particular tastes (a far cry from the M.O. of Amazon or the chains). Indies thereby do a profound service to their communities -- and, by ripple effect, to the larger culture in our country. It's no stretch to say that vitality of the indies means vitality for democratic culture itself, which begins in and consists of (what else?) neighborhoods!

Our latest Featured Indie is Bookshop Santa Cruz in Santa Cruz, California:
Stepping into Bookshop Santa Cruz is something like entering a synthesis of old California hacienda and countercultural community center. A stronghold of literary culture in downtown Santa Cruz since 1966, the bookshop welcomes the visitor with a bright, breezy, and rambling space of more than 20,000 square feet packed with new and used books. Tables, carts, and floor-to-ceiling shelves bristle with two trademarks of an exceptional indie bastion: a trove of backlist titles both honored and eccentric, and an abundance of artfully composed staff recommendations.

Owned since 1973 by the Coonerty family, the bookshop thrives in a symbiotic relationship with the vibrant intellectual and civic life of its community on the Monterey Bay (former owner Neal Coonerty was mayor for a time). Following the devastating 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which leveled the bookshop, an army of local supporters helped rescue much of the store’s inventory from the rubble. Over the course of the bookshop’s three-year rebuilding campaign, the store was housed in a tent and a fundraiser through the Northern California Booksellers Association made it possible for all bookshop employees to continue earning wages. 

Neal Coonerty carries a box of books out of the 1989 rubble
Today Bookshop Santa Cruz stands tall in a seismically retrofitted space. With its impressive events calendar and its unique and generous customer rewards program boasting more than 14,000 members, the Bookshop’s enduring role as civic and cultural beacon is clear. “A bookstore really has to reflect a community,” Neal Connerty has said. “I think you can read a community by looking at the books.”

Favorite recent finds by Atelier26 staff at Bookshop Santa Cruz include W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, hardcover ($4.95), Joseph Brodsky’s Watermark: An Essay on Venice ($7), Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine ($6.10), and, proudly displayed in the large and variegated periodicals sections, a gorgeous new literary magazine hailing from Santa Cruz, The Catamaran Literary Reader.

Atelier26 is proud to report that early copies of The Beauty of Ordinary Things by Harriet Scott Chessman are now in stock at Bookshop Santa Cruz.