Bay Books - A Coronado Destination - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Home And Business

Bay Books - A Coronado Destination

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Posted: Wednesday, December 23, 2015 2:59 pm

When friends Shirley Muller and Shirley Hanson opened Bay Books in 1991 they had no idea how the store’s readership, big bookstores, Amazon and the internet would change the business. The duo had a love for reading and wanted to offer a place to buy books without crossing the bridge. Manager Barbara Chambers, who has worked for the store since the very beginning and was friends with Shirley Muller laughs when she remembers the first day.

“I told her “ ‘We can’t open.’ We only had 500 books,” she recalled. Chambers said Shirley Muller turned the books to show the covers so it would appear the store had more books.

Shirley Muller originally had a flower/garden store in the location of the book store and after two years she decided to close and return to her love of books which was also her background. Shirley Muller’s daughter-in-law and current owner Angelica Muller explained that Shirley Muller was the owner of the first English book store in Mexico City. When she retired she moved to Coronado but ended up going back to work.

“She opened the store and 24 years later we are still here,” said Angelica Muller. (Shirley Muller passed away in 2002).

Bay Books prides itself of the fact it has one of the most extensive selection of reading materials, including international magazines, among the independent bookstores.

“In 2008 we went through a rough time not just with Amazon but Barnes and Noble, mega stores like Costco. They affected us,” said Chambers.

In the years 2008 and 2009 the store was in danger of closing. Angelica Muller decided to diversify and started adding more gift items to the selection of books. Those items include toys, puzzles, and crafts for kids, purses, jewelry, ponchos and board games. Angelica only buys in small quantities to ensure that when shoppers come back they don’t see the same items for sale and there is always something new. “It’s making a big difference for us. You’ll be able to find a gift from newborn to 99 years old. They are tasteful. They have helped us survive but our main focus remains books,” she said.

Angelica Muller, who is the buyer for the store, brings in merchandise that is in the $15 to $20 range. In addition to gift items there is a section for tech accessories and original paintings. Angelica Muller aims to make the store a destination where people can browse. Bay books is also a one stop shop for presents. The store now sells Papyrus cards, so a customer can get a gift, a card and a gift bag.

Last year Bay Books was the recipient of the James Patterson grant. Patterson is the author of children’s books and mysteries who supports independent bookstores. His grant benefited 81 stores all over the U.S., 17 of which are in California. Angelica Muller won’t divulge the amount but said it was enough to give a bonus to the employees and install a security system among the projects. “It got us over the hump,” she said. 

To take care of Bay Books Angelica Muller quit her job as a Chief Financial Officer for an international investment firm to see what could be done with the store. “People thought I was crazy to do that,” she said. When she first took the reins of Bay Books she used her administrative management skills to look at margins and what could be done to increase revenue. Some of the options were to reduce the size of the store and cut down on staff but she was not willing to do that and came up with a plan. “Let’s think outside the box; my focus was saving [the store] and making it survive and making sure it stays here for many years to come,” said Angelica Muller.

“When you have a passion for reading you have a whole universe open to you,” she said.

Angelica Muller said after the hype of ibooks, kindle and the internet, readers are coming back to books. She and Chambers said not one day goes by that a customer is not saying thank you for being in Coronado. Chambers is so devoted to her customers, she has personally delivered books to their doors. “I have delivered to little old ladies in the Shores who answer their door in their bathrobes,” she said.

Many in Coronado have memories of going to Bay Books as a child. “We have kids that came in when Bay Books was founded and now they are bringing their own kids here,” said Angelica Muller. “No doubt we have made our imprint; Coronado people are very faithful. People could order a book from Amazon for a 20 percent discount but then we wouldn’t be here anymore,” said Chambers. Chambers also often hears comments from people like “I was at Costco I saw the book I wanted for $3 less but I’m buying it here.” 

“We couldn’t do it without their support,” she said.

The store has expanded over the years and the children’s section has grown. Parents can be seen sitting in the rocking chair reading a book to their children. Angelica Muller said many times the children come for the toys and the moms always end up buying them a book as well. What she said distinguishes Bay Books from other stores is the children’s sections and the large selection of military history books.

There are many stories that are unique to Bay Books. Chambers tells of one story of a couple from Canada who visits Coronado for long periods of time. They order the books ahead of time so when they come in the store, the books are ready to be picked up or another couple from Arizona calls before their trip and asks the staff to pick books for them.

Some of Bay Books employees have worked at the store for a dozen or more years and they all have a passion for books which is shown by the book reviews they write. The reviews have been a tradition since the opening of the store when Shirley Muller and Chambers would write them. 

Shirley Muller was a true book lover. “Shirley bought books with a passion. When she passed away she had 200 boxes full of books. She used to say ‘I don’t have time to read now, but when I retire I’ll have a good library,’ ” Chambers recalls Shirley Muller saying.

Despite the changes in the industry Bay Books has offered a preferred reader discount at the store since it first opened and regularly holds book signings a few times a month which attract a number of readers.

Bay Books, 1029 Orange Avenue. call (619) 435-0070.

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