Books Inc. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
Books Inc. opened its new store in North Berkeley today after moving from Fourth Street. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

By Francesca Paris

Workers were still putting the final touches to the store’s exterior Monday morning as both local residents and out-of-town visitors explored the new Books Inc. which opened its doors today in North Berkeley.

Books Inc. shut down its smaller store on Fourth Street to move to 1491 Shattuck Ave., the former location of another independent bookstore, Black Oak Books, which closed in 2009. (Black Oak is now at 2618 San Pablo. Ave.)

“The response from the public so far has been overwhelmingly positive,” said manager Schyler Baker at the store today. “Even as we did construction, passerby would stop and pop their heads in to check if we were open yet.”

“This space is bigger, which is very helpful to us,” Baker said. “It allows us to expand our book and magazine selection, especially children’s books and cookbooks.”

Books Inc. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
Inside the new Books Inc. on Shattuck Avenue. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

The store will hold its week-long “Grand Opening Celebrations” starting on July 21. It will host an event each day, featuring local writers including Annie Barrows and Mac Barnett. After the celebration, Books Inc. plans to host weekly events, such as book-readings, just as it did in its old location.

Baker did say that “a lot of people miss Black Oak Books.” Black Oak moved out of the Shattuck location six years ago as a result of financial struggles.

Read more about Berkeley’s independent bookstores.

In a case of bittersweet timing, Books Inc’s opening comes just five days after the city’s oldest operating bookstore, Shakespeare & Co., shut down permanently. Its owner, Jon Wobber, also cited an inability to make money as the reason for the closure.

On a more positive note, however, Books Inc.also opened right on the heels of the two-day inaugural Bay Area Book Festival in downtown Berkeley which attracted thousands of enthusiastic participants (Berkeleyside will have a separate story on the festival soon.)

Books Inc. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
Staffers at the main desk at the newly relocated Books Inc. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

Baker said he is optimistic about the prospects for local booksellers generally. “It’s a good time for bookstores. We still have a lot of vibrant bookstores in the area. I think our opening shows that independent bookstores can still open and operate here,” he said.

The Books Inc move was initially scheduled for February, Baker said, but was delayed as Books Inc. waited for its construction permit. Books Inc., which became the company as we know it today in 1946, has a total of 11 bookstores in the Bay Area.

Local residents visiting the store expressed both nostalgia for Black Oak and enthusiasm for the new store.

“It’s nice to have a bookstore here again,” said Anand Marathi. “Especially since there aren’t as many in this neighborhood as there used to be.”

George McNeil, a neighbor who frequented Black Oak, said he is happy to see the space no longer vacant. He hopes the store will support local writers as well as bring in visiting authors by hosting readings. “I hope it thrives,” he said.

Books Inc. Photo: Melati Citrawireja
The new store is bigger than the Fourth Street one which means it is expanding its book and magazine selection, especially children’s books and cookbooks, according to manager Schyler Baker. Photo: Melati Citrawireja

Dominic Riley, who was also checking out the new store Monday, said he misses the antiquarian section of Black Oak; as a bookbinder, he searches for rare, old books that Books Inc. doesn’t carry. Nonetheless, he appreciates the new store: “It looks great. It’s pretty and well-lit,” he said. He said he believes the neighborhood will be conducive not only to good business, but also to fostering a sense of community around the store.

“This is a great neighborhood for books because there are a lot of writers, journalists, poets, and a lot of readers. I believe this will soon become a hub for culture in Berkeley.” The move, Riley said, is “good news for Berkeley and for book lovers everywhere.”

Bookstore moving into old Black Oak Books in North Berkeley (10.15.14)

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