Partnering with the Community
The list of ways that Green Apple Books partners with its community is a long one. Green Apple Books participates in their local first movement, regional association, neighborhood business group, the library’s One City, One Book program and Litquake, but the list does not end there.
“All of these things take time and effort, and sometimes you wonder what you’re getting out of it, but I could name fifty ways that involvement has come back to help Green Apple, so I would only urge others to get involved in whatever way the feel comfortable. It’s worth it,” Mulvihill stated.
In addition, Green Apple Books announced in April that they would be opening a second location in the lower level of Le Video’s building on Ninth Avenue in the Sunset District. “Le Video is sort of the ‘Powell's of video stores;’ they have 100,000+ films, many of which cannot be streamed online or found elsewhere. So at some level, shacking up with them works synergistically…And if it helps Le Video and creates more bookselling jobs, win-win,” Mulvihill stated. It is thanks to this partnership that Le Video will no longer have to close and instead will move upstairs.
And no one can deny that Green Apple Books is doing all that they can to give back to other community institutions and their devoted customers. “I honestly think that without all we learned at Winter Institute and through ABA programming over the years, I doubt anyone outside of the Bay Area would have heard of us. This is not hyperbole.” With the owners’ and the rest of Green Apple Book’s enthusiasm and dedication to what they do, I think we will be hearing about Green Apple Books for years to come.
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California Bookstore Day
Green Apple Books, this year’s Publisher Weekly’s Bookstore of the Year, has had a long history of selling books to the residents of San Francisco that dates back to 1967. An MBA group that came to study Green Apple Books concluded that their success stems from four factors: the appeal and responsibility residents may feel to shop locally, the highly curated selection of books and other inventory, the sense of community, and the beauty of the store. As Mulvilhill pointed out about the previous Bookstores of the Year, “Every bookstore on the list of previous winners pretty much nails all four of those.”
The current owners, Kevin Hunsanger, Kevin Ryan, and Pete Mulvihill, have attracted the attention of the residents of their home state as well as across the country through their dedication and enthusiasm to giving their customers what they want: good books and innovative approaches to showcasing those page-turning reads (Green Apple Books even rang in the Chinese New Year by handing out more than 1,000 fortune cookies with literary fortunes inside).
One event that would not have been possible without Green Apple Books is California Bookstore Day, which took place on May 3rd. The idea for this special day was inspired by Record Store Day and Free Comic Book Day. Mulvihill brought the idea for this celebration to the NCIBA board and then to publishers at last year’s BEA. After both the NCIBA board and the publishers gave the day a thumbs-up, the preparation began.
“We hired a producer [Mulvihill’s wife] and she made the whole thing real, from raising money to developing a logo, from curating the books and art pieces we're selling to coordinating publicity, outreach, marketing, from editing a few books to sourcing wood for a graffiti stencil, and so on. And dealing with ninety-three stores statewide,” Mulvihill stated.
On this day, devoted readers headed over to the 93 participating stores in California to enjoy the exclusive books and arts pieces, great company (some authors even visited the participating stores), food, readings and prizes.
Throughout the day, Dave Eggers stopped by Green Apple Books to sign books, Lisa Brown and Wendy MacNaughton crafted up some exclusive bookmarks, and a local author scavenger hunt was led by Beth Lisick and Jan Richman. For young readers, Green Apple Books had 826 Valencia come by the store to lead a storytelling workshop where the group created a story together, and each child had the chance to craft their own ending.
Some of the exclusive books and art pieces sold on this day were an expanded book version of George Saunders’ 2013 convocation address at Syracuse University titled Congratulations, By the Way, a joke book titled Do You Smell Carrots?: A Joke Book for Kids with contributions by several children’s authors and illustrators, a set of four California classics, and recipes from Michael Pollan. To see the whole list, click here.
There has already been talk from other stores who hope that this day will go national. “The ABA will evaluate the day’s success and decide if they think they can pull it off or not. If they pass, and the day IS successful, NCIBA will likely find a way to make it happen again. CBD was not started as a trial, but, in effect, it will be,” Mulvihill revealed.
The goals for the day are simple. Mulvihill wants to get people into the bookstores buying books for the experience. “None of us are here to break even. We want to create excitement, a sense of urgency about books,” Mulvihill stated. “We want to reward the community that has supported these 93 stores by giving them access to something truly special. We hope to put beautiful and worthy books into the hands of readers. And we hope to celebrate, each store in its own way, that bookstores are not just still here, we’re celebrating!” Mulvihill continued.
This month at Independent Publisher we are celebrating Green Apple Books and how they helped make California Bookstore Day a reality. Here is to hoping that National Bookstore Day is next!
If you are stuck in a reading rut, here are a few of Pete Mulvihill’s recommendations:
The Plover by Brian Doyle, a forthcoming novel from Houghton Mifflin coming late this year called Black River (Mulvihill raves that it kicks your butt like a Cormac novel and reminds him of Marilyn Robinson), and The Hour: a Cocktail Manifesto.
Nicolette Amstutz is a writer for Independent Publisher. She recently graduated from the University of Michigan where she majored in English and Communications. Please contact her with any comments, questions, or criticisms at namstutz (at) umich.edu