First it was a grocery store, decades ago, then a bookstore next to a thriving coffee shop. The bookstore, which is only little in comparison with others in Santa Fe, had two sets of owners over time. Now it is being run by a dedicated team of women who are bringing new life and vibrancy to the store. Garcia Street Books, always its name, joins the ranks of small independent retail stores owned by local women.
What is it that makes a bookstore great?
Of course I love that they display five of my twelve published books, several of them out of print, and will soon add the memoir Passion and Prejudice I wrote years ago and that still tends to attract more readers than my novels and collections of short stories.
But that is purely personal.
On the more objective level, it’s the quality of the books selected to line the counters—and the surprises there. It’s the rare ability to mix the books published and promoted to sell to a large audience and the more specialized, and perhaps more original, books that may reach only a select few. It’s the row of winsome hats on top of one of the bookshelves, made by one of the owners, and the ceramics also displayed there. It’s the cheerfulness of the owner who pulls up the heavy wooden covers on the outdoor cases every morning, showcasing the books displayed there. It’s the feeling of hope, the belief that words on paper still matter—and they do. My subjective impression from watching what the passengers on planes are reading is that the devices are losing momentum—maybe because they have to be turned off during the sometimes lengthy approaches to airports. And who wants to be reduced to reading the airline’s promotional material?
I believe in books printed on paper, and a lot of others do too. For the death of every bookstore, like the esteemed Shakespeare & Co in New York, another fabulous store survives, such as The Corner Bookstore in the East Nineties. For every doomsayer about the shrinking number of readers in this country, there are young people like my granddaughter who devours three books a week. And now that we know the truth about Facebook, we may decide to spend some of that wasted time with books—maybe!
It helps, too, to have a coffee shop next door, so that Garcia Street Books never had to undertake the expensive, space-stealing coffee shop that sometimes seems the only reason people go into bookstores—and the free Wi-Fi inevitably connected.
Yes, we love our books and our bookstore and the courageous souls who run it. Long may Garcia Street Books thrive as community center and repository of printed meaning.