John Evans and Alison Reid, the owners of DIESEL, A Bookstore, with locations in Oakland, Malibu, and Brentwood, California, are in the midst of putting the final touches on their fourth store. Set to open this June, the new DIESEL will be located in the Marin Country Mart complex at 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle in Larkspur, California.
Founded in 1989, DIESEL is known for a well-curated title selection, deep community roots, and enthusiastic staff. “When people ask what we specialize in? Well, we specialize in good writing,” said Evans.
While good writing is common to all DIESEL locations, each store has its own vibe. The Larkspur location sits across the street from the Larkspur-San Francisco ferry terminal, in a storefront that once housed A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books, which shuttered in 1998. The space is part of the Marin Country Mart, an open-air shopping mall of 1970s-style wood construction, which is being renovated and revived by developer James Rosenfield, who also owns DIESEL’s Brentwood property.
Rosenfield had a vision for Larkspur, as he did for Brentwood, and asked DIESEL to join in. “He has a particular idea about picking the best things, as he sees them, for the people living there,” said Evans. “He likes to create an interesting mix.”
Rosenfield carefully selected the businesses to bring to the revived Country Mart, including an ice cream shop, bakery and café, yoga studio, gym, and a toy store, many of the businesses independently owned. Adding fish ponds and potted plants along the weaving paths and bringing in weekend farmer’s markets, he has paired local shops and products with the local community. “People will come there and meet there and shop there and eat there,” Evans noted, because everything is so easily accessible.
Reid and Evans worked with the developer on the design of the 2,800-square-foot bookstore, which features knotty pine walls, a wood ceiling, a reddish cork floor, and floor-to-ceiling bookcases. “The easiest way to describe it,” Evans said, “is like a library for a private college in Marin from a hundred years ago — very rustic, and yet Ivy League.”
While the central area of the store will have moveable tables to accommodate indoor events, DIESEL will be able to use the complex’s outdoor common area for larger events, especially given the town’s mild weather. Movie nights and concerts currently take place in the outdoor space, as does the farmer’s market, and author events will soon be added to the calendar. The store also plans to start hosting book clubs soon after opening.
The local community is a bustling mix, including home-grown Californians, affluent transplants from New York, and longstanding Marin county hippies, and Evans expects DIESEL to draw a wide-ranging customer base, from artists and musicians to computer programmers and financiers.
The opening inventory will feature titles from the Indie Bestseller Lists, literary fiction, and general interest, Evans said, but he expects it to evolve. “The people that work there and the people that shop there will change it.”
The Larkspur location will be welcoming some veteran booksellers to its staff, including Herb Bivins, one of the founders of Black Oak Books in Berkeley, and Rod Froke, who comes from San Francisco’s Stacey’s Bookstore, which closed in 2009. Margaret Simpson, a former employee of A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books and who now works at DIESEL’s Oakland location, will be also spending some time in the store. Reid will be doing the bulk of the store’s ordering.
Evans and Reid are looking forward to the store’s opening and are very pleased with how the mall is developing. Storefronts are filling up with new, local boutiques and restaurants. “I’m very excited about the community of businesses that are there, and the people that are taking advantage of it already,” said Evans. About the store’s appearance, he added, “It’s going to be one of the most beautiful bookstores you have ever seen.”
A soft opening is projected for mid-June, and Evans and Reid are planning a grand opening celebration for later this summer. Store staff will be keeping customers updated about the progress on DIESEL’s Twitter and Facebook pages.