Independent bookstore Books Inc. to open North Berkeley location Monday

Alvin Wu/Staff

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Books Inc., an independent bookseller with 11 stores in Northern California, is opening a new location in North Berkeley on Monday.

The store is moving from 1760 Fourth St. to 1491 Shattuck Ave. in North Berkeley, near the intersection with Vine Street. The location has been empty since Black Oak Books, another independent bookstore, relocated in 2009.

“We have really missed having a bookstore in our neighborhood,” said Priscilla Rice, a realtor who has lived in North Berkeley for 32 years. “When Black Oak Books left, it left a big hole.”

According to Mario Jacobus, the current owner of Black Oak, the store originally closed because of increasing rent payments. At its peak, the rent reached $18,000 per month.

“It’s a great location for a bookstore,” Jacobus said. “We didn’t want to leave. We tried to stay, but it seemed like the landlord wanted us gone.”

According to Schyler Baker, manager of the new Books Inc. store, the company had tried to move into the space shortly after Black Oak left, but it was unable to come to an agreement with the landlord at the time.

Books Inc. isn’t renting the space in the back of the building, as Black Oak did, and will have lower rent costs as a result, he said. The building’s owner, Rue-Ell Enterprises, can sell the extra space as a separate unit. According to Baker, the old space was becoming too small, and the Shattuck location’s larger size allows Books Inc. to expand, especially in its children’s section.

“We were glad for the opportunity to get into this bigger space,” Baker said. “We essentially wanted to pick up where Black Oak left off and keep a strong bookstore in this space.”

Karen Adelman, one of the owners of the nearby Saul’s Restaurant and Deli, said she expects that customers will visit the bookstore while waiting to be seated at Saul’s. Books Inc. has partnered with Saul’s in an effort to crowdfund an outdoor-seating project at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Vine Street, and during the bookstore’s opening week, Saul’s will offer a complimentary cup of matzo ball soup with any purchase at Saul’s to those who present a receipt from Books Inc.

Adelman said she believes that Books Inc. will be great for the North Berkeley community.

“It makes the community and the area more well rounded — books are an essential part of life,” she said. “It’s an honor to have a bookstore on our block.”

The new Berkeley location will host several events in July spotlighting authors and their newly published books. The first event will be held July 8 and will feature Paul Steinberg and his new book, a memoir about his 30-year fight against prostate cancer.

Contact Ethan Walker at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ethannwalker.