Angelica Muller comes from three generations of a family that loves books. Her mother-in-law, Shirley Muller maintained a passion for books her whole life. She owned the first English speaking book store in Mexico city and she and her step sister Shirley Hanson, are the founders of the book store Coronado locals and tourists love, Bay Books.
Bay Books has been a part of the Coronado landscape on Orange Avenue for almost 30 years. What started as a local flower shop, became a treasure that locals cannot live without. However, this treasure was almost lost when the realization of a necessary move became evident to Angelica.
The more recent space for Bay Books was a larger and more open area, with plenty of room for books, magazines, newspapers, a children’s section and space to browse around as you shop.
Muller quit her job as a financial officer for an investment firm to help with the bookstore after her mother-in-law passed away. “People thought I was crazy to leave my job. I knew I could lend my skills in finance to create some new ideas to help the bookstore,” said Muller.
Then a new owner for the building and the block came into play. “The issues we faced were hard for us. The buildings owner came to us about a raise in the rent and we quickly realized we could not afford to keep such a large space,” said Muller. “We had to figure out a way to stay open. There was no way I was going to lose a legacy that we worked so hard to bring to Coronado.”
Bay Books was forced to close in 2019 due to a rent increase and Angelica forged a path to finding a way to stay open. As luck would have it, she was friends with the owner of Bullshirt, a T-shirt shop just a few doors down from the original Bay Books location. The owner of Bullshirt was ready to retire and offered to change his plans to help Muller and Bay Books. He agreed to retire early to enable Bay Books to acquire their space for the bookstore. We often talk about neighbors helping neighbors today, but this is an incredible example of Coronado coming together to truly help one another.
“I will never forget having that conversation”, said Muller. “His generosity was going to help Bay Books stay in business. I went to the owner of the building and explained that we had been able to acquire a smaller space and that we were staying open.”
The re-opening of Bay Books was not as easy as Muller had hoped. Even though the newly acquired space was smaller, the numbers showed they would still need help maintaining their margins to be successful. Muller used her financial knowledge and thought it would be a great opportunity to add a coffee shop to the Bay Books resume.
“This was also not an easy thing to do. It took a year lobbying with the city on this business plan,” said Muller. “The coffee shop would help subsidize the book store and hopefully bring more people in.”
To the delight of the neighborhood, Bay Books was on its way back to a new location on Orange Avenue with the addition of a coffee shop.
As luck would have it, right in the middle of the move and a remodel, COVID-19 hit.
“We had already been closed December 2019-March 2020 during our move,” said Muller. “When we re-opened in April 2020 we were not prepared for a pandemic. I honestly was beginning to think this would be the end of our family store. We had worked so hard to stay a part of Coronado and now we were facing something out of our control. There was no Covid relief on our rent, people were required to stay at home, we had to find a way to stay open,” said Muller.
It is easy to realize in this world today we can get things faster, easier, and have choices when shopping on the internet or large stores. But what choice do you make when you prefer to shop local? The answer again comes from the support of the Coronado community.
“Everyone in Coronado was so helpful and supportive”, said Muller. “They offered to volunteer at the store, pick-up orders, unload our delivery trucks. I even have a customer who came in and brought me a gift certificate to take our employees out to a local restaurant for a meal. This is a community that works together and supports local businesses always.”
“Another example of neighbors helping neighbors is our collaboration with the Coronado Library,” continued Muller.
Shaun Briley, Director of the Coronado Public Library, has offered Bay Books the opportunity to join in with the Community Read Program. This program helps to unite the community through the shared reading of a single book.
“Bay Books is proud to be a part of this program and help readers find books in our store”, said Muller proudly.
Bay Books currently has eight employees, some are retired military wives, some are volunteers. “They all have a passion for books and have been there for us and with us through some difficult times. We are blessed to have them as part of the Bay books family.”
“Shirley Hanson is also still part of our family at Bay Books. She still lives in Coronado, is a teacher, and promotes education, reading and children’s books. She started this book store with my mother-in-law and I am happy to say we are still here”, said Muller.
As I spend time in Bay Books, it is not hard to realize why this store really is a gem on Orange Avenue. I have spent countless hours in both the old and new location over the last 10 years as an avid reader. In this place of escape, research, knowledge and humor, I find other items I might have missed before. Bay Books offers not just books, but gifts like journals, jewelry, scarves, hats, toys, cards, stationary and coffee mugs. All excellent items to include with the gift of a book.
But it isn’t just the gifts that make it different. The books are well displayed and inviting. The atmosphere is warm and friendly. The employees are familiar and knowledgeable about each and every book on the shelves. Each section is categorized perfectly making it easy to find exactly what you are looking for. There are even “review cards” written by local readers on some of the books that give a future reader some insight into the book and opinions on whether its worth the read. This is a great idea if you are lost on the type of book you want to read or want to change the genre you may be stuck in.
There is a wonderful children’s section in the back of the store that offers a bench and a small rocking chair for children as they choose their books to take home. It’s warm, inviting and fun, surrounded by books, games, activities and smiling stuffed animals that make a child want to be in the bookstore. There is also a section in the children’s area that offers some of the classics in child friendly versions to get your child started early on some wonderful reads.
Let’s not forget the newest addition to Bay Books – the coffee shop. When you walk into the store you immediately smell the aroma of fresh brewed coffee. Their choices are a delight with coffee, smoothies and pastries. The coffee shop is open Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday through Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Even though we are still under some restrictions when it comes to COVID-19 and shopping, Bay Books has been in the forefront in helping their readers access books. You can order your books by phone at 619-435-0070, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and they are willing to deliver right to your door in the Village, Shores, Cays and the military bases. Shipping is also available. Bay Books is open Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m to 7 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Masks are required while in the store and there is hand sanitizer available at the door. Bay Books is located at 1007 Orange Avenue in Coronado.
As much as this is a story about a local bookstore, it is also a story about a community. Coronado came together to help a business remain open and moving forward during a difficult time. “Bay Books has two seasons they depend on during the year, summer and Christmas”, said Angelica. “This has been a hard year for everyone and we appreciate what the community has done to support Bay Books.”
In the future, Bay Books hopes to expand the outside area for the coffee shop with more tables and umbrellas for its patrons. “We want everyone to enjoy coffee, a book and our beautiful weather”, said Muller.