We had the good fortune of connecting with John Evans and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi John, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
We wanted to open a store that was different from any bookstores that were currently in the area. We were experienced new & used booksellers and wanted to open a bookstore with a healthy work culture; friendly, welcoming and helpful customer service; rich selection of titles and authors; and a fun, light, and attractive atmosphere. This was in the Bay Area in 1989, in Emeryville, which didn’t have a bookstore and was an eclectically populated post-industrial town.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We are most proud of providing an incredibly rich range of titles for the size of our stores, to all the diverse individuals who need and want the books to be found here. And we’ve done it with decency, respect, civility, joy, and passionate curiosity for over thirty years. We are proud to have done well by our coworkers, our customers, our authors and our publishers. There was nothing easy, or straight-lined about our success — but this is true of all aspects of life, for most people. From earthquake to fire, recessions to plagues and pandemics, chain stores to online retail there have been so many challenges. Independent businesses and business people are resilient, agile, and resourceful. And we fit that role. We overcame challenges with perseverance, doggedness, creativity and playfulness. You sleep better if you know you are doing your best — for the world, the communities you serve, and the people you work with. Your best is doing your work with passion, precision, interest, care, dignity, respect, consideration, intelligence and compassion. That way all your work makes you a better person, better able to serve your community and take care of yourself at the same time. Bookselling is a deeply empathetic and long view profession.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Anza-Borrego, Julian, Balboa Park, beaches beaches beaches, lagoons, tacos tacos tacos, bookstores & record stores (covid-permitting). Specifically also: Prager’s Bakery in Encinitas; Pannikin and French Corner Cafe in Leucadia; Fish 101 and Buona Forchetta in Leucadia; and the Belly Up in Solana Beach. Definitely go to San Onofre for surfing.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A bookstore composes a cultural ecosystem, collectively with all the other members of the store’s staff, the publishers & authors who supply the books, the customers who read the books, and communities it serves. It’s a cooperative and collaborative achievement, at all levels.