Reading on the River
It's the height of summer, and Guerneville has come alive. The river has been revived by the winter rains, and the beaches, trails, and sidewalks are flush with locals and visitors alike. From the Stumptown Daze Parade and Pride weekend to the Vineman triathlon and the Lazy Bears, summer on the Russian River is never dull. The welcoming aromas from Coffee Bazaar invite the customers in, and the enticing world of books convinces them to stay a while.
The most common refrain we hear from our customers (besides "What's the bathroom code?") is, "I'm so happy you're here!" Out-of-towners bemoan the fact that their home city no longer has a single bookstore (we're looking at you, Walnut Creek), while locals reminisce about years past when Guerneville was home to our predecessor, Twice Told Books, as well as the renowned River Reader. Two bookstores in one small town?! It's hard to imagine such a thing these days. Times, of course, have changed, and the advances of technology (e-readers, Amazon delivery), along with the increased costs of book production have prevented many independent booksellers from thriving. We, on the other hand, have been fortunate enough to benefit from consistent local support and two prime locations, and we hope to keep going strong.
We've spent a good amount of our first ten months on the river getting a sense of the literary needs and desires of our Guerneville customers as opposed to the Sebastopol crowd. There are probably more similarities than differences: everyone loves fiction and mystery and sci-fi/fantasy, and a number of customers are always on the lookout for history and social commentary. But River folks, locals and tourists alike, tend to seek out the eclectic book on local history, or the best fishing spots, or gun guides. They're thrilled to find anything by local authors -- John Schubert or John McCarty -- or that dusty old 1936 hardback by Ellery Queen. And of course they want any book they can take to the beach, or on a hike, or to the coast, or to the laundromat next door.
Not that we should generalize about our customers; there are individuals everywhere, with unique likes and dislikes. So we do what we can at both stores to cover the wide range of interests. One of the other refrains we hear is, "You have such a great selection!" This is due to Mark and Geronimo's expertise when book scouting, for they not only understand books, they understand our customers. And they also have a keen sense of the kind of inventory that best reflects their vision of what Mockingbird Books represents. They've established this vision over the past four years in the Sebastopol store, and now it is being developed in Guerneville.
So as summer pulses on into the fall, and fall leads into our busy holiday season (yes, books for Christmas! Start shopping now!), we're grateful and encouraged by the hometown support in both towns, and we appreciate how welcomed we've been by the River community. Today a happy customer said, "I hope to keep coming back here for years to come!" We hope so, too.