A Bookstore Oasis in Venice Beach

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"It's an oasis in a rather frenzied beach environment," said Small World Books' Mary Goodfader of her Venice Beach, California, bookstore. In 1976, she and her husband, Bob Goodfader, bought a historic building where they relocated Small World Books and opened a restaurant, The Sidewalk Cafe. "So, we are lucky," she said. "Venice Beach is a tourist spot, the restaurant is jumping, and we own the building. It is an eclectic community, filled with tourists on the weekend, but with loyal support from the neighborhood of artists, filmmakers, and people who love the sense of eccentricity."

For its first seven years, the bookstore was located in a small mall in Marina del Rey until its lease expired. Bob Goodfader then spotted a building for sale on the boardwalk and "had the business acumen to see the potential," said Mary. The 1902 building dates back to when the Venice Beach community was a replica of Venice, Italy, complete with canals and gondolas and buildings with arches, columns, and vaulted ceilings. Although most of those details are long-gone, Venice Beach still retains its carnival spirit, said Goodfader.

Small World's ownership is multigenerational. "My mother, Mildred Gates, opened it in 1969," said Goodfader. "I had a bit of experience in bookselling, she had the time, so we had a partnership.... I brought the kids to hang out as I did the buying, and it worked very well. My mother retired in 1978, and now my daughter, Deb Loucks, is an active partner."

After graduating from college in 1967 with an English degree, Goodfader "sent out applications to all the bookstores in L.A." She landed at the College Book Company in Westwood, California, where she moved up from telephone operator to head buyer in 18 months. "I felt I had had a great education and that I could offer my mother the expertise to open a store together."

Small World is a general literary bookstore, focusing on paperback backlist in fiction, poetry, children's books, mysteries, and science fiction, and featuring an ongoing display of the Book Sense bestsellers. "The business is very involved in the many local organizations and happenings," Goodfader said, "and supports the Venice Art Walk, the Venice Garden Tour, and multiple open discussions."

Small World Books took part in last weekend's L.A. Times Festival of Books, where it was an exhibitor. "We were in the poetry corner," said Goodfader. "It is the most exciting event -- to see people turn out for literature, to see them support the poets. There were some very wonderful and notable poets this year, starting with Mark Doty on Saturday morning ... and ending Sunday afternoon with Chris Abani, Wanda Coleman, and Luis Rodriguez -- the poetry tent was rocking!"

Happy that BookExpo America is in Los Angeles this year, Goodfader is looking forward to the author breakfasts and luncheons as well as catching up with old friends. Her recommendation to BEA-attending booksellers is "come to Venice Beach!" --Karen Schechner