‘Everything came alive again’: Berkeley bookstores celebrate Independent Bookstore Day

Photo of Sleepy Cat Books
Gavin Sagastume/Staff

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It has been more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic first swept through the nation, causing businesses to cease normal operations — Berkeley’s bookstores were no exception. Saturday, however, marked a joyous occasion for many of Berkeley’s independent bookstores — the celebration of Independent Bookstore Day.

More than 800 bookstores nationwide celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, according to Jeff Koren, the sole proprietor of Sleepy Cat Books located at the corner of Telegraph Avenue and Dwight Way.

To mark the occasion, Sleepy Cat Books offered free shipping on its website for the entire weekend.

“Every day patrons tell me how much they enjoy the bookshop and seeing my cat, Lyla,” Koren said in an email. “I know the students must often have a lot of stress with classes and everything else – that my bookshop & cat can help brighten their day means so much to me.”

Koren added that he has been able to introduce many new books to the inventory and students often stop by to add polaroids of Lyla to her fan wall.

Since the lifting of many COVID-19 regulations, Koren said he has seen Sleepy Cat Books become more popular than ever.

“It was so great to see students come back to town,” Koren said in the email. “Everything came alive again.”

For many bookstore employees, Independent Bookstore Day promotes the importance of investing in your community.

According to Tim Rogers, the manager of Pegasus Books on Shattuck Avenue, when patrons purchase from large online stores, the money goes directly into the pockets of big corporations.

“Not only bookstores, but small stores in general are important because they put money back into the community,” Rogers said. “If you spend money here we get paid and then, we go shop and eat out, and the money goes right back into the community.” 

Niki Kates, a clerk at Moe’s Books on Telegraph, echoed Rogers’ sentiments and expressed that they believe shopping in-person at a bookstore is better than shopping on Amazon. 

In addition to supporting local businesses, Kates said there is something valuable about the community at bookstores.

“There is a real community in bookstores,” Kates said. “You get to have interesting conversations with strangers about ideas you are curious about.”

Doris Moskowitz, owner of Moe’s Books, said in an email that bookstores are invaluable because they support “literacy, culture, and self-knowledge.”

According to Moskowitz, Moe’s was founded in 1959 by her parents and is now a women-owned and family-owned bookstore.

Moe’s Books not only sells books, but also encourages people to trade them, according to Moskowitz.

“Books empower people to think for themselves,” Moskowitz said in the email. “This is how we support a world in which knowledge is power.”

Contact Anna Armstrong at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @annavarmstrongg.