Thursday, December 8 2022

Verbatim Books is not only surviving, but also thriving with lineups in North Park.

SAN DIEGO – If you have a pile of books you no longer read, there’s a special place in North Park that wants your books and your business. In this Zevely Zone, I visited Books in full.

Owning an independent bookstore isn’t easy; where is it? As the son of a San Diego librarian, this is a story I had to tell. This is the story of a bookstore that not only survives but thrives.

“We have cookbooks, we have craft books,” Verbatim Books owner Justine Enitsuj said while showing me around. “It’s the quirky side of the store,” she said. When was the last time you heard of a bookstore tearing down walls to make more room? They didn’t have enough space and had to expand. “Yeah, we did,” said Justine, who loves watching customers’ faces as they walk through the door. “They’re like, oh, I didn’t know a bookstore could be like that, I thought bookstores were all old and dusty and closing down,” Justine said.

Selling books can be boring, but not if you turn the experience into an event. “Walking around the store, you can see a lot of cute little pieces,” Justine said. Her store is filled with art, memorabilia and of course books.

Verbatim Books is a mostly used bookstore with a selection of over 35,000 soft and old books and zines. Their stock is extremely organized to help you find quality editions of classics, favorites and new discoveries.

Even the store itself looks like a stack of books. “I guess we call it our library mural,” Justine said. If the exterior of the building is the cover of Justine’s book, wait until you see what’s inside. “I think that’s the most eye-catching part,” Justine said, showing me hundreds of stacked books that spell out the name of the Verbatim Books store. “A lot of these books are from the 1890s. These books are beautiful. Nothing is stuck together, everything is balanced,” said Justine, who can be said to love not messing with the book.

98% of Justine’s books are used and most only cost around $5. “I like coming here because the books have personality,” said customer Juan Lopez. “It’s unique, it’s unlike any bookstore I’ve been to,” customer Robert Garcia said. “This little section has a bunch of books from the 50s,” customer Rebecca Garcia said. “They take the time to talk to you, they take the time to see what interests you,” said customer Eduardo Duran. “It’s got a cool vibe, it’s in a cool place, you just want to hang out here,” customer Melissa LaFara said.

You can also bring your own books to buy, sell or trade. I brought some of my own books. “I think it’s a nice collection. But have you read all those books?” Justine asked.

Of my five books, Justine was interested in three. “This will be the bestseller in your collection,” pointing to a book my wife read that was gathering dust on a shelf. In return, she gave me the Handmaid’s Tale written by Margaret Atwood.

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Justine is 37 and grew up in Hillcrest. I asked her what she wanted to do in life when she was a child. “Oh my God, that’s really an interesting question,” said Justine, who told me that with every book she read, her dreams changed as quickly as the pages she turned. “I could be a boat captain, or I could be an explorer, you know, like a teacher,” Justine said.

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Own a bookstore and you can write your own storybook ending. In the past, Verbatim Books has helped organize popular community events such as the North Park Book Fair and the San Diego Book Crawl. They have hosted performances for hundreds of local authors, musicians, artists and poets. Check out their Events page for more information on our upcoming events or Click here for more information.

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