Celebrating the Independent Bookstore

By Isiah REYES

The 2nd Annual California Independent Bookstore Day was celebrated by Once Upon a Time and Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse on May 2, reminding everyone that indie bookstores are community centers run by passionate readers.

Last year’s first statewide celebration of independent bookstores was such a success that the event has expanded nationwide, growing from 93 stores in California to 350 across the country. California Bookstore Day has evolved into Independent Bookstore Day, when bookstores from Mendocino to Maine all recognize the importance of the indie bookstore in its community.

“The independent bookstore is where people can discover books and we give personalized attention,” said Maureen Palacios, owner of the Once Upon a Time bookstore. “We have author events versus just the drab online presence that doesn’t give you all that.”

To celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, the Once Upon a Time bookstore located on Honolulu Avenue provided goodies, snacks and its own Wheel of Fortune with exclusive items only sold on that day.

The Once Upon a Time bookstore was founded in 1966, and in 2008 Publisher’s Weekly announced that it was the nation’s oldest children’s bookstore. Having gone through a change in management and surviving the online boom, the store will stay around thanks to the support of the community.

“We have two great independent bookstores here in the Crescenta Valley and each of us has our own personalities and you’re able to discover great books at both places with personalized attention,” said Palacios. “We have author events in schools where we connect books with young readers. You can’t do that with an online bookstore. The community has embraced us and they have been very supportive.”

The other bookstore in the area is the Flintridge Bookstore. To celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, it provided a full day of fun for all, including a drawing where a lot of books were given away and appearances by local authors.

“Children drew pictures of their favorite characters from books, which we then hung on the window for the day,” said Gail Mishkin, Marketing, Events and Author’s manager of Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse. “Our independent bookstore is part of a small community and so we provide a lot of local events. It becomes a meeting point for the community and I think it provides an important place for people to come and hear both authors and music and participate in children’s activities. You could spend hours here.”

A certified therapy dog also made an appearance in the children’s section, having children read to him.

“Therapy dogs are used to help children who are either shy about reading or who have difficulties with reading,” said Mishkin. “It helps children become comfortable with reading because it is much easier to read to a dog than it is to a person because a person may be judging them.”

The Independent Bookstore Day is based on other similar events such as record Store Day and Free Comic Book Day. The general idea is to promote local businesses with either local events or by stocking limited edition items. Next year’s celebration is sure to be just as festive as this year.

“It’s important to realize that reading a good book can change your life, and independent bookstores are the place to find them,” said Mishkin.