Happy 5th Anniversary: A Love Letter to East Side Books

Dear East Side Books,

When my husband first mentioned the possibility of moving to Bishop, California, my only questions was: Is there a library?  I figured I could live anywhere as long as I had access to books.  What I didn’t know at the time was that in Bishop I would find something better than the library; I would discover Eastside Books tucked off the main drag in an unassuming low brown building whose plainness belies the treasures hidden within.

That was eleven years ago, and I am more in love with Eastside Books than I was the first day I cruised the shelves, checking out all the nooks and crannies, delighted with the wide diversity and quality, elated with the possibility of what I would find.  Over the years, East Side Books has played a significant role in my life.  Initially, it offered me a connection to a community that helped salve off the loneliness of moving to a new place, and later, when I was a sleepless new mother, the shelves of Eastside Books offered much needed mental stimulation.  As my interests have changed from season to season, I have found great resources in a variety of sections, whether it be instruction manuals on composting with worms or patterns for Amish quilt making or advice on how to train a puppy.  The most pleasure I have gotten from East Side Books is introducing my own children to the wonders of books. Simply being able to spend time sitting on the floor in the children’s section where they can handle and read gently used books, creating stacks of treasures they can’t live without.  It pleases me greatly that over time, East Side Books has also become their favorite stop in town.  We go to the warm, safe cocoon of East Side Books to counter balance the bad days where nothing has gone right as well as to pile on the happiness when all is bright and shiny.   I have even run into my husband amongst the stacks when he has needed an escape from work to clear his head.  East Side is not just our bookstore, it has become our haven.

This August, East Side Books is celebrating a fifth anniversary–five years of ownership by Diane Doonan.  An anniversary party will be held on Friday, August 13 including food, music, extended hours, prizes and giveaways, and lots of fun.  The sale will extend throughout the rest of that weekend.  I can’t believe it has already been that long since Diane took over the store, but I can mark the anniversary by the birthdays of my youngest daughter.  It was she that helped Diane and I get to know each other quite abruptly when Diane first became owner.  On our first visit to her East Side Books, Diane met us warmly at the door, not often the greeting I received with a four-year-old and two-year-old in tow.  As we made our way to the children’s section, she encouraged us to seek her out if we needed any help.  We spent a good amount of time at East Side Books that afternoon and the store slowly filled with other browsers.  In our happiness to be reading books and out of the house we forgot, my youngest and I, that she was potty training, until there was quite a large puddle spreading beneath her where she sat in the children’s section.  It was one of those moments when I didn’t know what to do first.  As I carried my daughter bottom up to the bathroom I mentioned to Diane as discreetly as I could with a line of people at the counter, “We had an accident.”  On my way back through, my child bare bottomed, Diane handed me a roll of paper towels and spray bottle of carpet cleaner while ringing up customers with the other hand.  And I knew right then I liked her because that moment was a perfect example of the essence of Diane–practical and kind.  Somehow I got everything and everyone cleaned up and exited as quickly as possible without our stack of books.  It was quite some time before I could face returning to East Side, slinking in the door, but Diane never said a word about, in tune with her gracious character.

Although this month is Diane’s fifth anniversary of ownership of East Side Books, as most people know, East Side Books has been around for many more years than that.  Barbara Marcellin started what is now East Side Books in the early 80’s with partner Jeanie Holt.  It was then called The Worn Bookworm (and you can even occasionally still find a book with a Worn Bookworm stamp in it), and was limited to what is now the Children’s and Fiction room.  Ten years later, Tamara Ganahl took the reins.  Tamara was the queen of the book hunt, scouring thrift shops, books sales, and estate sales to add titles that added diversity and liveliness to the shelves.  She too moved on from East Side Books after about ten years, handing her crown off to Mary Daniel.  Mary’s reign was short, but important as she did much to spiffy up the store and create a cozy atmosphere.  Emily Johnson was the next owner, and while her ownership was also short, she brought a wonderful sense of order and organization to the store.

While browsing as a customer one day, Emily mentioned to Diane that she was selling the store.  Diane was spending so many hours in town, waiting for her kids to finish their various activities that she was looking for something productive to do with her “in town time”.  Plus, she was buying so many books for her kids that she figured she might as well just buy them all.  Like many of us who love books, in the back of her mind owning a book store was always a “fun” job option.  Perhaps it sealed that deal that at the time she and her family were living in a small house that didn’t have a foundation.  In the spot where her bookshelf was, the floor was beginning to separate.  Her husband suggested that she find somewhere else to shelve her books.  So she did.  She bought East Side Books.

Although owning East Side is not always as peaceful and calm as she imagined, and, NO, she doesn’t get to read all the time because there are always 300 other things to do, there is much Diane loves about owning a used bookstore.  She loves when the neighborhood kids come in for a free book.  She loves the holiday parties. (Diane is a holiday decorator extraordinaire.  Since I personally hate to decorate, I bring my children to East Side to get their dose of holiday festivity.)  She still loves when her own kids come in and pick a book off the shelves that they might not have found otherwise.  But she says the matchmaking is the best part–finding the perfect book at the right moment for a grateful customer.  Her favorite East Side Books moment so far (and no, it was not when my toddler peed on her carpet), was when a regular customer was in with her high school age granddaughter.  She overheard the granddaughter say, “Grandma, have I ever let you read the essay I wrote about how all the books you have bought me over the years have changed my life?”

And I guess that is what reading and East Side Books is really around.  Changing lives.  Offering possibilities.  Helping doors open and windows be found. Giving everyone the chance to fall in love with words on a page.

Come help Diane celebrate five great years of her love affair with East Side Books on Friday, August 13.  Who knows what you will find.

And thank you East Side Books, for all you have given to me and my family.

Love, Melissa

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