Sonoma Community Toasts 15 Years of Readers' Books

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Readers' Books of Sonoma, California, owned by Lilla and Andy Weinberger, celebrated its 15th birthday on Saturday, November 25. Customers and friends marked the milestone with a large party at the store; a book-themed cake; music by Simka, a klezmer-cafe band including Andy Weinberger; and announcements of future projects.

The evening before, as part of the celebration, Readers' Books held a book party for Sonoma California: Portrait of a Town, by M.J. Allen, photos by Cathy Stancil (Oculus Creative). Lilla Weinberger told BTW that the bookstore staff had long lobbied for such a book. "The community needed a beautiful book with photographs to capture the natural beauty, vineyards, and architecture of this place," she said. "We are very pleased to carry it."

A few nights earlier, Readers' Books held a very large author event with "gonzo gastronome" Anthony Bourdain (The Nasty Bits: Collected Varietal Cuts, Useable Trim, Scraps, and Bones, Bloomsbury). Over 300 people attended the reading, which was held at the Sonoma Community Center. The store regularly hosts about two in-store events a week.

Andy and Lilla Weinberger, celebrate the 15th birthday of Readers' Books.

The 2,000-square-foot store is hoping to create more space with additional seating for larger events by turning its untended backyard into a usable outdoor room. The newly formed Friends of Readers' Books has taken on the project.

Weinberger told BTW, "The group came to us when Kepler's was having problems. They wanted to know how to help us continue to be viable. We all wanted to select a specific project, separate from the running of the store, for which they would raise money, goods, and services. This was a perfect idea -- we had long wanted to create usable space out there, even had plans drawn up, but we couldn't afford it. Before the party, a group of Boy Scouts spent an entire day cleaning up the yard."

Readers' Books keeps in touch with its customer base through its website, and more recently the Constant Contact Program.

"I know that people are constantly monitoring the website: if I make any kind of mistake -- a wrong date or misspelling -- someone will be on the phone to me within minutes," Weinberger said with a laugh. "I learned about Constant Contact at the [Northern California Independent Booksellers Association] trade show in Oakland. It's great, and very easy, once I spent a long first session mastering it. We can track how many people are opening the emails. It's quite flexible: We announce new shipments of books and last minute schedule changes."

Readers' Books displays the Book Sense Bestseller List and other Book Sense Picks in a special area. "We find the Book Sense Bestsellers List very helpful and always post it," said Weinberger. "Our customers are well trained -- they know to look there first for the latest recommended books." --Nomi Schwartz