By Ellen Shehadeh
West Marin’s iconic independent bookstore, Point Reyes Books, is drafting the final pages of its remarkable story. Owners Steve Costa and Kate Levinson have made the difficult decision to sell what has been the center of their lives for the past 14 years. When the couple bought the store on a whim in 1999 with absolutely no retail experience, Levinson was a psychotherapist in Oakland and Costa a community organizer; they were weekenders in West Marin.
“People might think that owning a bookstore is just reading a lot of books and sitting behind the counter,” Levinson says. But she admits to never having worked so hard in her life, seven days a week. They are both tired.
What the couple created is not merely a successful independent bookstore in a time when small bookstores are in fierce competition with the likes of Amazon and large retailers, but a community hub that has hosted more than 800 major writers for readings and conversation, and sponsored large events like the Geography of Hope Conference—featuring well-known authors who write about environmental themes and small intimate gatherings like the Annual Candlelight Winter Solstice Poetry Reading, where locals share their writing or their favorite poems in the “community living room.”
The store has raised more that $500,000 for local nonprofits and is known for co-publishing the West Marin Review literary journal. Now, the search—a careful and thoughtful process—is on for a buyer who will carry on the store’s long tradition. “It will take as long as it takes,” Costa says. Levinson suggests that the future owners may have strengths that they don’t have. “We are confident,” she says.
In a letter to the community, Costa and Levinson express that they are not exactly sure what lies ahead in their lives. But the next chapter surely includes “more time to be in nature with family and friends” and putting “energies toward building a better future world for all, including our three grandchildren.” Costa wishes to continue creating events and retreats through the nonprofit Black Mountain Circle, while Levinson hopes to write another book. The couple wants “to grow their spiritual lives, serve the poor and explore the world outside of West Marin.”
Costa says that the past 14 years have given him a deep appreciation for the power of books. “People buy a book and then come back to the store and talk about how much the book has touched them,” he says.
The letter emphasizes gratitude for loyal customers and friendships made. “I am touched every day by some interaction that I have in the store,” Levinson says.
Costa and Levinson hope to convey the bookstore to a new owner by the end of 2016. Interested? Write to them at [email protected], and visit ptreyesbooks.com.