SAN DIEGO — If you have a pile of books you're no longer reading, there's a special spot in North Park that want your books and business. In this Zevely Zone, I visited Verbatim Books.
Owning an independent bookstore isn't easy; or is it? As the son of a San Diego librarian, this is a story I had to tell. It the story of a bookstore that is not only surviving but thriving.
"We have cookbooks, we have craft books," said Justine Enitsuj, the owner of Verbatim Books while giving me a tour. "This is the original side of the store," she said. When was the last time, you heard about a bookstore knocking down walls to make more room? They did not have enough space and had to expand. "We did yeah," said Justine who loves to watch the faces of customers when they walk in the door. "They are like, oh, I didn't know that a bookstore could be like that, I thought books stores were all old and dusty and going out of business," said Justine.
Selling books can be boring, but not if you turn the experience into a happening. "As you walk around the store, you can see a lot of cute little pieces," said Justine. Her store is filled with art, memorabilia and of course books.
Verbatim Books is a primarily secondhand bookstore with a selection of over 35,000 gently loved and antiquarian books and zines. Their stock is extremely curated to help you find quality editions of classics, favorites, and new discoveries.
Even the store itself looks like a pile of books. "I guess we call it our bookshelf mural," said Justine. If the building's exterior is the cover to Justine's book, just wait until you see what's on the inside. "I think this is the most eye-catching part," said Justine while showing me hundreds of books stacked up that spell the store's name Verbatim Books. "A lot of these books are from the 1890's. These books are gorgeous. Nothing is glued, it's all balanced," said Justine who you can tell enjoys not playing by the book.
98% of Justine's books are used and most only cost about $5. "I like coming in here because the books have personality," said customer Juan Lopez. "It's unique, it's unlike any bookstore that I have been to," said customer Robert Garcia. "That little section there is a bunch of books from the 50's," said customer Rebecca Garcia. "They take time to talk to you, they take time to see what you are interested in," said customer Eduardo Duran. "It's got a cool vibe, it's in a cool place, you just want to hang out here," said customer Melissa LaFara.
You can also bring in your own books to buy, sell or trade. I brought a few of my own books. "I think it's a fine collection. Did you read all of these books though?" asked Justine.
Of my five books, Justine was interested in three. "This is going to be the best seller of your collection," pointing to a book my wife read that was gathering dust on a shelf. In return, she gave me the Handmaid's Tale written by Margaret Atwood.
Justine is 37-years old and raised in Hillcrest. I asked her what she wanted to do for a living when she was a child. "Oh, my goodness that's really an interesting question," said Justine who told me with every book she read her dreams changed as fast the pages she turned. "I could be a boat captain, or a I could be an explorer, you know like a teacher," said Justine.
Own a bookstore and you can write your own story book ending. In the past, Verbatim Books has helped to produce popular community events such as the North Park Book Fair and the San Diego Book Crawl. They have hosted performances for hundreds of local authors, musicians, artists, and poets. Check out their Events page for more information on our upcoming events or click here for more information.
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