When owners Christin Evans and Praveen Madan became the proud owners of The Booksmith four years ago, their goal was to make an “independent bookstore for the 21st century.” Bricolage talked to Christin Evans by email to find out how they’ve done, and hear more about the upside of bricks-and-mortar.
Brick: Tell us a bit about your lovely store.
Christin Evans: The Booksmith is an independent bookstore founded in 1976 in San Francisco’s historic Haight-Ashbury district. Since Praveen and I purchased the store in 2007, we’ve worked to build the “dream team” of independent booksellers, expand our author events program, and strengthen the community that surrounds the bookstore. The Booksmith now hosts approximately 200 author events a year both in the store and at offsite venues. By tending to a well-curated selection of literary fiction, poetry, and counter-cultural titles, we’ve made The Booksmith a must-visit destination for the literary-minded.
Brick: Who comes to visit?
Christin Evans: Our customers are young and old, and fiercely independent-minded. Recent authors who have appeared at The Booksmith’s events include David Mitchell, Michael Chabon, Daniel Clowes, Elif Shafak, Arthur Phillips, Chris Adrian, Kate Bernheimer, Dinaw Mengestu, Tao Lin, Yann Martel, contributors and editors of The Paris Review, Daniel Handler, Lisa Brown, David Vann, Glen David Gold, Andrew Sean Greer, Stephen Elliott, and Chuck Palahniuk.
Brick: What’s your favourite thing in the store?
Christin Evans: I don’t know if there is a favourite thing except for maybe our fancy new Booksmith tote bag, which features original artwork from our artist-in-residence and long-time bookseller, Sean Chiki. Sean has hand-illustrated all of our interior signage at the bookstore. We recently assembled a photo collection of his art here.
I have two favourite monthly events: The Booksmith Book Swap and the Literary Clown Foolery, both events unique to our bookstore that bring people together for wine, literary conversation, and amusement.
Brick: Are booksellers necessary?
Christin Evans: We’ve spent a lot of time focussing on things that Amazon, Apple, or Google don’t or won’t do. In the internet era of e-commerce and e-books, we are cautiously optimistic about the future of independent bookstores. Our focus is on creating a browsing experience you won’t get online. It’s the serendipity of running across a title or two you didn’t know you wanted and participating in a community of avid book readers who love to discuss their latest finds that won’t be matched by the internet anytime soon.
Brick: Not to toot our own horn or anything, but—toot toot!—what do you think of Brick?
Christin Evans: Brick is one of our core literary journals, which you can always find on The Booksmith’s shelves. Brick delivers quality writing from established and emerging writers alike—a vital offering of contemporary fiction, in particular. We loved the recent cover story and tribute to Kate McGarrigle.