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40 Years of Bookshop Santa Cruz

40 Years of Bookshop Santa Cruz
by Neal Coonerty

Bookshop Santa Cruz has been at the heart of Santa Cruz for forty years. Santa Cruz is a great book town and her readers have seen Bookshop through the best and worst of times. For forty years our customers have discovered books on our tables and shelves that entertain, help solve problems, or, occasionally, change a life. For forty years the staff at Bookshop has had the distinct pleasure of recommending those books to hometown readers and visitors alike.

During that time, we have also had to deal with horrible personal tragedy and terrible natural disasters. But Bookshop has also hosted a wedding, often provided the only bathrooms in town, and once had a woman go into labor among our book shelves. Over the years we have become part of a wonderful community.

Like many things in life, the real joy of this anniversary rests less in the fact that we survived forty years and more in the day to day journey itself.

I still remember my first day as owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz. The Bookshop had been open for seven years, run by founders Sharon and Ron Lau.

When they decided to sell the store, my wife Candy and I were delighted. Owning Bookshop Santa Cruz was our dream come true. We took over on November 1, 1973.

Candy and I were introduced to the community as the new owners of Bookshop Santa Cruz during a booksigning event. Jim and Jeanne Houston were at Bookshop to celebrate the publication of their enduring classic, Farewell to Manzanar. To honor these beloved and respected local authors in their hometown, a big community event was held on that Saturday afternoon. Our annoucement was just a footnote to that celebration.

On that first day at Bookshop I was 27 years old and Candy, 23, was 5 months pregnant with our first child, Ryan. Our announcement of change of ownership was a surprise for everyone, but the Santa Cruz communtiy in the middle of this wonderful literary celebration, we felt at home.

Now, 33 years later, as I prepare to assume the responsibilities as the 3rd District Supervisor, my daughter, Casey Coonerty Protti, is taking over Bookshop Santa Cruz. When the Bookshop celebrates its 40tha anniversary party on November 10, 2007, I will officially hand over the reins to Casey. To come full circle, as I write this Casey is 5 months pregnant, as her mom was during that change of Bookshop management 33 years ago.

As a first time grandpa, I look forward to the hours of reading pleasures ahead with my grandchild in my arms. I remember the fun of reading (and endlessly rereading) Goodnight Moon to my children as they settled down for the night. I invented a little game--as I turned the pages of Goodnight Moon I quickly covered up the little mouse that appears on each page. I would ask my kids where the mouse had gone and they would pry my big thumb up to make the mouse reappear. I'm planning to fall back on that same trick with my grandchildren.

Despite the hurdles presented by an earthquake, chain competition and economic downturns, being a bookseller has been fun. There is nothing as delightful as finding just the right book for a reader. I have been blessed with a number of wonderful staff memebers over the years who are great booksellers. Four people have each worked at Bookshop for more than 30 of those 40 years.

Ga Lombard has been the children's bookseller and buyer at Bookshop for three decades. She is nationally recognized as an expert on children's books, and each succeeding generation of local parents and teachers has relied on her wealth of knowledge to find the perfect books for a child.

 Judith Milton has been the adult buyer for Bookshop for decades. If it is a new hardcover or paperback book, Judith probably made the decision to offer it to our customers. I believe she is one of the best and smartest buyers in the business.

Patrick O'Connell has been a manager at Bookshop almost from the time he started working here in the 70s. He is in charge of our newsstand and is also our floor manager, hiring and training our staff to serve our customers. His influence is visible every day at Bookshop. He is an invaluable part of Bookshop's history.

Recently Lori Fukuda left Bookshop after thirty years in order to work for the City of Sant Cruz. At the Bookshop she was the person in charge of reordering books and spotting local reading trends so we could respond to our customers. She was a great bookseller.

Of course, there are many, many others who have worked with us for decades and they helped make Bookshop Santa Cruz the community center it is today.

These sorts of anniversaries are occasions of celebration and reflection with a quick peek into the future. The fact that an independent bookstore has survived for forty years is an accomplishment in this day and age.

Nationwide, thousands of independent bookstores have closed their doors. But during this tough time, Bookshop Santa Cruz has survived. For that, we want to thank the readers of Santa Cruz who have made our dream come true.

—Neal Coonerty, November 2006