Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore was established in 1993 in San Diego by Terry Gilman, Jeff Mariotte, and me. Since then, we have become well known for our love of our genres, great author events, and a passion for the business of books. The founding partners have also moved outside of San Diego! Terry and I work full time supporting the two storefronts and working outside events in our communities (South Bay, Los Angeles, and sundry AZ locales).
Jeff and I came from bookselling backgrounds – he from Books Inc. and Hunter’s Books, and I from B. Dalton. Terry worked in desktop publishing and was a passionate and voracious reader. In the early 1990s, we felt there was a need for a genre bookstore in southern California, specifically in our hometown of San Diego. The attraction of being a bookseller is simple – connecting readers and books, in this case with a focus on the genre titles we are personally fond of.
At a time when bookstores are closing in droves, Mysterious Galaxy has just opened a second location. What’s your secret?
Actually, we are one of many booksellers around the country opening… something that doesn’t make the news as often as the ones that are closing. I’m not saying that we aren’t facing challenges – notably recently online retailers that spend millions of dollars in California and other states to fight e-tax fairness laws – but our reason and process for opening the second location is the same as it was for opening our San Diego location 18 years ago. We believe that there is a reading community that is ready to welcome us. And, in some ways, the climate is better than it was nearly two decades ago, with numerous ‘‘shop local’’ movements and increased consumer awareness of the importance of where they spend their shopping dollars. We are also fortunate to be able to connect with readers in two kinds of communities: our geographically local ones, and our widespread genre ones.
How has the role of the brick-and-mortar bookshop (and the booksellers who work there) changed now that people can buy any book online? It is more about building community than simply selling books?
For Mysterious Galaxy, the bookstore has always been about community and connections, and providing a compelling experience in the store – including recognizing the occasional customer who just wants to select her own books and be self-sufficient! As the huge national growth in book clubs has illustrated, people don’t just want to engage with their books, they want to interact with other readers as well. As 21st-century booksellers, we provide ways for readers to do that electronically and in person, and to interact with authors, and occasionally editors, reviewers, and other publishing professionals.
Mysterious Galaxy does a lot of special events – signings, readings, and the like. What’s the most memorable event you’ve had lately?
I’d say our San Diego location signing with George R.R. Martin, after four-plus days of Comic-Con, was memorable – excited and exuberant fans. And then George was nice enough to drop-by the Redondo Beach store post-Emmys, including making the booksellers’ day by asking them for recommendations.
And I’m sure we will have tales from future events, as we host some 50-odd authors in San Diego for our World Fantasy Convention Meet & Greet event, and Mysterious Galaxy Redondo Beach kicks off our Grand Opening month. October is a huge and exciting month on the calendar for both locations!
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or the work you do?
Just that after nearly three decades of book retailing, it’s still a labor of love, and that I still thrill to the daily discoveries of new arrivals, book announcements, publisher catalogs, etc. The only thing better than receiving a new book I’m excited about is sharing that excitement with others – and that’s something shared by all of the Mysterious Galaxy staff.