The Hawkeye

Est. 1935

By Victor Liu

 

It’s an unusual sight in the 21st century: a quaint old-fashioned bookstore nestled between Kim’s Nail Care and Mac’s Smoke Shop.

Bell’s Book Store has withstood the test of time. It’s the last independent bookstore operating in downtown Palo Alto and it will be celebrating its 81st anniversary in 2016.

The store has an antique feel— its 14-shelf-high walls house over 375 thousand books, with the oldest ones dating back to the 15th century, according to Virginia Kean, one of two employees in the store.

Bell’s Book Store will be celebrating its 81st anniversary in 2016 after its establishment in 1935, a testament to the owner Faith Bell’s dedication to the book-selling business.

A multitude of reasons explain Bell’s unlikely success in this eBook era: an affinity people have for old-timey books, the unique experience the bookstore offers to customers, Bell’s personal curation of the store’s stock and her familiarity of the book retail business.

“People like to browse and find things that they haven’t even thought of or dreamed about,” said Kean. “People of all ages come in and spend time browsing and find unusual things tucked away.”

Chris Storer, the other employee and Bell’s husband, has also attributed Bell’s Book Store’s success against eBooks to its ability to carefully curate its stock.

“When eBooks first came out, there was this faddish devotion and everybody wanted to try it, and now that’s going away and those people are coming back to the store. They buy something because the cover looks nice, and it turns out that it was badly written,” Storer said. “We usually don’t buy things  when they first come out unless they’re by already established authors.”  

Unfortunately, Bell’s history might be cut short before it can reach a historical century-long milestone.

“We don’t have anybody in the next generation who’s shown an interest in maintaining [Bell’s Book Store], they’ve all got different careers,” Storer said. “Whether [Bell’s Book Store] will go past my wife and I, I don’t know.”

Est. 1935