Orinda Books Celebrates 30 Years

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Orinda Books, which was founded by five partners in 1976, is today a 4,500-square-foot general bookstore owned by Janet Boreta, one of the original founders. Located in the close-knit community of Orinda, California, in a semi-rural valley on the east side of the Oakland/Berkeley hills, the store features popular fiction, children's books, and a wide selection of music CDs.

Children's author Wendy Tokuda at Orinda.

Orinda, which has a population of about 17,000, is "a great place for an independent -- too small for the chain stores to bother with, but with a real sense of community and lots of support for local businesses," said Boreta. The store is in retail strip called the Village Square Shopping Center, which also features a cafe, beauty salon, florist, and an independent pharmacy.

"We opened 30 years ago on August 2, 1976, with five founding members," Boreta told BTW. "By 1980, I was the sole owner -- the others moved away or decided it wasn't that much fun to run a bookstore. I've always loved it. We moved once to another space in the Village Square and greatly expanded."

Key to Orinda's longevity, Boreta said, was "to be really well read, talk about books all the time, give great advice about books, and serve as a community gathering place."

Children gathered at Orinda Books for a Harry Potter event.

The store's staff of 17 part-timers stays current with new books and helps to manage different facets of the business, but Boreta said emphatically, "I'm the buyer. That's one of my favorite things."

With about 30 author events per year, Orinda Books serves as a cultural center for the area. Phillipa Gregory visited the store last Tuesday and read to a crowd of about 100 fans. Upcoming authors events feature Myla Goldberg, Adam Gopnik, and Sena Jeter Nasland, among others.

Also appearing at the store this week is Random House sales rep Ron Shoop who will present ideas for book lovers as a benefit for Project Second Chance, an adult literacy project of the Contra Costa Libraries.

Among her other activities during the store's 30 years, Boreta has been active in the local Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club and has served on the Board of Directors of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

Orinda Books has long participated in the Book Sense Program. "Book Sense has been great for us," Boreta said. "We display the [Book Sense] Picks on table in the front, and we read the ARCs in the boxes. The Book Sense Picks are the ones that we all read and are the ones we usually like. We have a BookSense.com website, and it's a good place to publicize the events and other things in the store. The very fact that we've got it [a website] is impressive -- we're a real bookstore with a good website."

Over the past decade, Boreta said that the store has experienced tremendous growth in the area of book clubs. "[Book clubs] have given us an amazing amount of business. I don't think we could survive without them," she explained. About 50 clubs are listed on the store's website, along with each groups' current selection. "Some meet here, some meet in their homes," she noted. "We give a discount to clubs, and we keep records of the clubs and what they've read."

Boreta has some major projects planned for the store, including some remodeling. "We're going full speed ahead," she said. "I feel very lucky to have been in this business, in this community. Independent businesses only survive if their community supports them. Ours does." --Nomi Schwartz