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Mrs. Dalloway's sign

MRS. DALLOWAY'S Literary & Garden Arts
2904 College Ave.
Berkeley CA 94705
(510) 704-8222
(October 2009 review)

overall feel & design
MRS. DALLOWAY'S Literary & Garden Arts
is a very special store that exhibits a lot of class and style, backed up with a fine selection of good-looking books on a wide range of subjects. The store sits on another one of those special section of College Avenue (there seem to be many special, sweet little section of College) that features a number of interesting shops and places to catch a snack or meal. There seems to be lots behind the store to enable it to be so attractively designed and fixtured, as well as well-stocked. Judging by the outstanding list of events, the owners history and connections in the publishing world are very helpful in getting a quality group of authors to appear in the store. Our last visit wasn't long after they had opened the large new room on the right side of the store. The new space reflects the design of the rest of the space and adds a whole new group of windows and light to the shop. All through the bookstore they have nice design accents, architectural curves, superb lighting, tasteful signing, beautiful lightly-stained wooden bookcases and tables, as well as many displays and props obviously heavily influenced by thoughts of a rustic garden ... maybe Mrs. Dalloway's garden. Our late friend, the artist John Oldani of the Capay Valley, had a relationship with the store (as in a relative there) and several years ago had created their distinctive counter and several cleverly-designed tables. On the left side of the store is where they feature the potted plants, bulbs, etc. to lead the browser into a kind of stylized greenhouse look (including plenty of translucent glass panels ... it works ... you just have to see it yourself) to hold some beautiful gardening, art, photography, and other sections on some very thick, rough-edged slabs of wood shelves. There are lower tables and displays in the center of the space and another large alcove in the back of the store, and now there is the new large room (maybe 30% as large of the first part of the store) that goes off the right side of the store. The new room holds a rather small children's section in the back and lots of nonfiction sections like: biography, history, travel, and more, plus a new rack destined to hold the coming magazine selection. The selection of titles in the new fiction and general nonfiction displays are simply some of the finest literature available. The term handpicked was one we always used in our stores to describe our selection of titles (to differentiate them from the mass of titles that you will see everywhere: chain bookstore, chain-bookstore-want-to-be independent bookstore, supermarket, Costco and Wal*Mart) and it would be aptly applied to Mrs. Dalloway's. There is a lot of thought behind everything about this store and it shows.

inside Mrs. Dalloway's

The staff has seemed mostly attentive and friendly on our visits. They were quite busy on our last visit as they were opening boxes and shifting sections around to get things settled in the new room.

the selection
Want find some gorgeous coffee table books on a wide range of subjects, make sure to take a look around Mrs. Dalloway's. The look of the store is rich and the stock is just as rich. There is wide selection of the best in the newest, most beautiful hardcover volumes published. The owners/buyers excel at finding the most richly illustrated, wonderfully bound titled available to compliment there already fine collection. Upon previous visits to the store, we didn't see many backlist titles, everything seemed new, new, new. But now, with the expanded store and stock, there is much more backlist to compliment their newer shelf mates. I'm anxious to return to the store to see what additional changes and stock have appeared. This is just what any store wants, for customers to be anxious to return, time and time again.
Mrs. Dalloway's sign In the nonbook area, since they include garden arts in their name, this store takes nonbook a little further than many other stores. Potted plants, plant bulbs, a few gardening tools, framed art prints, a little pottery, reading glasses, blank books, greeting cards, calendars, and a rack of magazine (just going up on one wall upon our last visit) all make for a wider-ranging mix than most bookstores. And, I'm sure we probably missed something, or they have added more as they filled up their expanded space.

This a store that is well-designed to offer up a multitude of different places to display and show off their alluring books. The variety of displays is almost distracting if you study this kind of thing (like this particular bookstore-reviewing nerd), but it all ends up very pleasing ... presenting a bounty of beautiful books. (Their great design can distract in the same way that Cormac McCarthy superb use of the language sometimes stops me dead in my tracks, and I have to to go back, reread, and see just how his simple words moved another one of his stunning scenes along.) The staff is very knowledgeable in how to mix products and use different props (large and small) to create interesting displays. Staff recommendations get their due space and they offer up some intriguing titles. Several of these books have come along home with us ... always a sign of a good display.

store events
Mrs. Dalloway's list of store events is a rich and full listing. The store always has a long list of interesting people coming in, as well as events of all different flavors and formats coming up. The owners are very well-connected in the publishing world and this certainly helps them be more aware of  things going on in the book world. This is a store to keep an eye on for the next name or unique event coming.  

website www.mrsdalloways.com
Like the bookstore itself, the website for Mrs. Dalloway is very stylish and classy. When you are there, often a rewarding a gallery of images will present themselves ... if you wait ... and give them the time to change. You can't order online, but they do direct you to a phone or fax number, or email. You can also learn about those store events, their art offerings, and little about the owners history online. They also tell you a little about their unique and free local delivery service. Take a look, it's a very pleasant experience as websites go.  

kudos for things that caught John's eye
   —   I love the use of slate to finish off the tops of some of the bookshelves
   —   the obvious thought & sensitivity put into making this such a gorgeous place to browse gorgeous
   books, they have STYLE

maybe change
   —   hard to say as the store was changing and growing in front of our eyes, but we always like to see      
   more backlist titles on the shelves
   —   the garden arts section (as symbolized by the potted plants, bulbs, a few garden tools, and a little art)    seems to be shrinking, maybe it's time to give over more of that space to books, OR go for it, and make   
   those sections stand out with more variety and goods ... or is gardening mostly out of season??
   —   our visits could have just find them off, but the window displays don't seem up to the standards of the
   displays throughout the store's interior
   —  there are some rather severe customer policies, and the staff seems rather cool and distanced at
   times, this is something we are always sensitive to as we always wanted people to feel very welcome and 
   comfortable in our bookstores 

Dalloway's books

store hours (as of August 2016)
Monday 10am - 6pm
Tuesday-Saturdays 10am - 9pm
Sundays 11am - 5pm

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