Bookshop Santa Cruz: A Local Institution

Bookshop Santa CruzAncient Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero once said, “a room without books is like a body without a soul.”

If that quote is to be held as true, then Bookshop Santa Cruz has more soul than just about anywhere else in Northern California.

The forty-five year-old bookstore, which has long been owned by the local Coonerty family (Neal and his son Ryan have both served terms as mayor of the city), is known both locally and beyond as the premiere place to find a book on nearly any subject, while being aided by a friendly, knowledgeable staff.  The New York Times even once praised it as “one of California’s great independent bookstores and a local cultural landmark.”

Founded in 1966 by original owners Sharon and Ron Lau, and located on the downtown strip, Pacific Avenue, Bookshop Santa Cruz hasn’t always experienced the smooth sailing. After the Loma Prieta Earthquake, which devastated much of downtown Santa Cruz, Bookshop operated out of a tent for a few years.  Getting back on its feet took time, but it came back even stronger, and today business is booming — it even outlived the Pacific Avenue location of the large chain store Borders, which closed its doors in 2011.

And for good reason.

You can get lost in the rows and rows highly stacked volumes as you make your way from humor to travel then back around to new nonfiction.  And everywhere you look are staff recommendations, award-winners, and popular new books on sale for as low as $6.99, making it easy to find something you can get excited about pouring into, even if you aren’t the type of zealous reader who looks forward weekly trips to bookstores the way the deeply religious look forward to church.  And if you can’t find something, they’ll order it for you.

On top of a booming adult book business and a rich used books department, Bookshop Santa Cruz also has a nationally-respected childrens’ books department.  If you want to teach your kids that there was civilization before Kindles, take them here and watch their faces light up at the colorful, broad selection of picture and chapter books.

And Bookshop isn’t just an independent bookstore that happens to be located in Santa Cruz — it is truly Santa Cruz’s bookstore, with a section dedicated to local authors, and scores of events with both local writers and national bestsellers.  Some recent favorites include David Sedaris and Michael Pollan.

It might be easier to click a button and know a book is being sent your way.  But it’s definitely more fun to visit a store like Bookshop Santa Cruz.

Bookshop Santa Cruz
1520 Pacific Ave.
Santa Cruz, Ca
Phone: (831) 423-0900


About Blair Stenvick

Blair Stenvick is a freelance writer who has lived in Santa Cruz for four years.