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mbm Mansion Book Merchants -  it all began in Davis
132 E  Street, Davis
March 14, 1987 - June 1992     

Our first bookstore was a small space that was half-a-flight down from street level. We thought of naming it A Room With A View, because the view from our windows was of just car hubcaps and pedestrians from the waist down — but, we didn't. Vicky's dad Mitch drew our store logo, it was taken from a part of the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer House that stood in front of Mansion Square. We thought of possible store names for quite awhile. We liked the sound of book merchants, and since we were located in a little shopping plaza named Mansion Square — it seemed right. A couple of our neighbors in the square were a used bookstore (Charles Berry's Used Books) a periodical shop (Newsbeat) and this seemed like a perfect compliment to our store. What more could a reader want in one place? Great reading opportunities abounded in Mansion Square. 

We went to just look at this abandon retail space — and before I knew it, I had gotten a crowbar out our car, and was pulling the old pegboard off the walls. It appeared that we had made the decision to go for it. I moved my table saw into the space and we made and finished all the shelves and some of the fixtures for the store onsite. We organized all the systems for a new working bookstore from scratch in just a few months. It took us from the beginning of January to March 14 before we opened our doors for business. Our first title sold was something by Thomas Hardy. Vicky and I had another partner, one employee, and lots of hopes.

early bookmark At the time, all three of the partners and our one employee, Megan, had all quit our jobs with the local Waldenbooks. We were going to try to create something special and we were going to do it our way. All three partners borrowed from family members, and we started with just $30,000. That was 10% of the funds that the National Book Association said was required to put a bookstore together. To be honest, Vicky and I weren't sure that we would really be able to keep it going for more than six months...but we wanted to give it a chance.

I made every bookcase, counter, bench and fixture and we had the entire space ringed with shelves by the time the first big shipment arrived from our distributor. We made great friends and future customers (thanks to Keith for the loan of the belt sander) with many of the people that were so curious about what the hell we were doing in that little space. I remember like it was yesterday, wearing a mask and using a light strapped to a stick or a broom to light the store's open rafters to spray paint them. 

Since we started with so little money, for a while all the books were all face out on the shelves. I still remember a few customers that said they loved the look, and that we must love the books' cover art as much as they did. We just couldn't afford more books, but these people were looking at the store in a different way...people have a wonderful habit of surprising you.
Lesson - just look at something differently.

Vicky and I took a job across the street running a bed and breakfast so that we could reinvest more of the bookstore's sales dollars in more inventory. This was a fascinating period, with guest at the B&B saying "they had always wanted to have a B&B" and people browsing our bookstore's shelves saying "they always wanted to have a bookstore." We must have been living the good life.

Our first exposures to Amazon was people bringing in printouts of books they had researched and wanted us to special order for them. Sweet! As was true for all our bookstore's, we always tried to give great service when it came to special ordering books for those people searching for books not on the bookstore shelves of Davis. We became know for our service and quality handpicked books, and more and more people came our way to browse.

Whenever we could, we took off to the book distributors in the Bay Area to go book shopping. Bookstore owners love to browse too. Back at this time, not only were L-S Distributors (1956-1999) and Bookpeople (1969-2003) still in business, but they were such great places to wander warehouses brimming with intriguing selections and some wonderful employees. After searching for special orders, we just looked for the books we knew our customers would find interesting, and the cool books that caught our eyes. At L-S, there was a wonderland of fiction—you could just wander over to the Penguin or the Random House wall and pick the best. Bookpeople was worker-owned, funky, and always very alternatively minded. Because we were so jazzed about these books, we would race back to the store, clear off a table, and just spread out these delicious finds. It was so very satisfying to see these books elicit the same excitement in our customers. If we had only had more money available, we could have made more distributor trips and we could have pushed our sales even more. This was an exciting time to browse these warehouses because they were laid out by publishers (as once bookstores were organized) or topic and everything was easier to find—before computers picked any empty space to put whatever new book came in. Once this computer efficiency came to all the distributors, you couldn't find much of anything WITHOUT a computer. This was so telling of the future. Lo and behold, I used a Kinko's copier and a typewriter for newspaper ads and store signing, and our inventory was on 3 x 5 cards.     

What's a Great Name for a Bookstore?
What's it like to come up with a name for a new bookstore? It's not easy. It's hard work, but somebody's got to do it.
What follows are most all of the possible names that we (or at  least one of us) thought were
clever names.
  

Best Trips Are in Your Head
Black Ink / White Paper
Brown Bear Bookshop
Fred's Books
Gerbils and Books
Good Friends
Great Valley Books
Mansion Book Merchants
Old Friends

Read
Room With A View
Strange Green Glow
Valley Oak Books


robert crumb plays

For our Grand Opening, Robert Crumb
and friends played some good music.
 
cranes in a bookstore

It was a small store lined with wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling with shelves. Just look at my origami cranes hanging down.
cloud in a small bookstore on E Street

The open ceiling was also a perfect
place for hanging a cloud.

trip back in time

 

 

  Take a trip in time  
   Mansion Book Merchants
— 132 E Street, Davis from March 1987 to June 1992
   The Next Chapter 225 G Street, Davis from June 1992 to February 1998
   The Next Chapter
1059 Court Street, Woodland from February 1998 to October 2003
   The Next Chapter
622 Main Street, Woodland from November 2003 to June 2008
   Raven's Tale
352 Main Street, Placerville from June 2008 to August 2009


                                                        some of the programs we put on in our bookstores

book some past events & writers

book Woodland Reads - we started this program to get Woodland readers on the same page - by holding events around a different book every year

book Poem-A-Day - every day during National Poetry Month (April) we handed out a printed copy of a favorite poem and emailed the same poem to a ever-growing Poem-A-Day mailing list

book we continue to mark the passing of some of the major figures of the book world - as we did with displays in our stores

book Banned Books Week - this was one of my favorite events - one that got more people reading books that some people wanted banned

book there was also: our Weird Christmas Tree Contest that brought the strange of many people, in-store reading tutoring for children, our many different book clubs, our Books from the Heart program to get more books into the local schools, the Day of the Dead shrine and community meal, and so many other programs, as well as always making our bookstore and coffeehouse available for countless community meetings.
_____

lore  learn about the differences between ravens and crows
fist the world of independent bookselling


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