Book/Shop marries books and shopping, a fine match.

Signs of the Times: A Very Rare Commodity


Pat Mazzera

There are all kinds of bookstores: emporiums like Barnes & Noble; neighborhood shops with handwritten shelf-talkers and disaffected, bespectacled staff; and dusty vaults, teeming with musty books in a disorganized jumble, threatening to topple over.

And then there’s Book/Shop in Temescal Alley. Tiny and sleek, its collection of rare, mint-condition vintage books are arrayed like art pieces in a SoHo gallery. On any shelf, one might find an impeccably kept Arion Press edition of Moby Dick, with original woodcuts, circa 1979; a pamphlet from a 1951 showing of Picasso’s lithographs; or Christmas cards from Robert Frost. Bookshelves made by local artisans are for sale; in the corner, there’s a vintage library chair. Stock, chiefly acquired through rare book dealers and collectors, changes often, so taking home an item is like picking up a seashell off the beach—each is precious and unique.

Storeowner Erik Heywood says Book/Shop is a response to living when one can acquire almost anything, though of questionable quality, from the Internet. “In response, people’s choices are becoming more refined. The [buying] criteria goes from what’s cheap, fast, and easy, to ‘Is it good? Will it last?’ ”

Heywood, with his fast-paced speech and a penchant for daydreaming about books, has a professional background in design. He visualized the store as a place where passersby can see books that aren’t usually accessible, except by appointment with a rare book dealer. “There’s almost nowhere you can go off the street to see books like this, in this condition,” says Heywood.

Book/Shop began as an online store with pop-ups in San Francisco and New York that attracted the attention of international design blogs and magazines. As a result, the shop, which opened in May, has become a destination for art and design-oriented and book lovers from Japan, New York, and Europe.

Heywood, who lives 10 blocks away, enjoys being part of exposing such travelers to Oakland, which he regards as one of the best-kept secrets in America, thanks to its weather, locally grown produce, and the smell of jasmine streaming into his bedroom window. “It’s the perfect place to experiment with things like this shop.”

Book/Shop, 482D 49th St., 510-907-9649, 12–6 p.m. Tue.–Fri., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Sat.,

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