by Christina Morgan Cree
Bookshop Santa Cruz is a locally owned and operated independent book seller since 1966. It’s a Santa Cruz favorite, a hub of literary activity and community events, and has provided the standard for other independent book sellers. They offer new and used books, a large magazine collection, cards and gifts, and host events that feature both local and national authors. Recently they hosted a sold out midnight release party for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts I & II.
It all began in 1966 in a brick building built in 1895 on Pacific Garden mall. In 1973 it was bought by Neal and Candy Coonerty, who said it was a dream come true for them as a self described “young and dumb couple” who didn’t know what they were getting into.
In early days the Bookshop had an eclectic group of regulars that mirrored its eclectic range of books. There was also Walt, the orange cat, that served as their mascot. In pre-Silicon Valley days, downtown Santa Cruz was not the buzzing set of shops that we see today. It had a bit of a faded feel—-like a place that had had its heyday and was past its prime. Gottschalk’s department store, Donatello’s Gelato, and The Cooper House were some of the old friendly faces.
When the downtown was nearly destroyed in the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the future of Bookshop Santa Cruz looked bleak. The owners reached out to the community passing out flyers asking people to donate five books in order to raise funds to save the Bookshop. Thousands responded to the call, and many immediately bought back the books they had just donated.
They were dealt another blow when they learned the building was beyond repair and would have to come down. The city would allow the bookshop two days to get as much as possible out of the damaged building with only 40 “workers” in the building at a time. They once again appealed to the community for help, unsure of who would respond to the call. When they arrived on the scheduled morning, they were greeted by more than 400 volunteers.
Bookshop Santa Cruz became ‘Booktent’ Santa Cruz and moved to a tent like many other Santa Cruz businesses for the three years it took to rebuild the downtown.
With the help of local builder, Barry Swenson, who personally helped insure its survival and helped provide the space for its current home on Pacific Ave, Bookshop Santa Cruz was persevered. In 2007, Neal Coonerty passed the baton on to daughter, Casy Coonerty Protti, who currently runs the business.
With ingenuity, tenacity, dedication, and community support, Bookshop Santa Cruz continues to thrive even through the megastore and digital age. It has survived eBooks, online book sellers, and chain stores. Bookshop Santa Cruz continues on in the heart of Santa Cruz, both literally and figuratively.
Find out about their upcoming 50th celebration and how to get involved at: www.bookshopsantacruz.com/bookshop-50th
View upcoming events here: www.bookshopsantacruz.com/event
Bookshop Santa Cruz
1520 Pacific Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Hours of Operation:
Sunday-Thursday: 9 a.m.-10 p.m.
Friday-Saturday: 9 a.m.-11 p.m.
Check out more of Christina’s Santa Cruz area articles in our travel section.