Published in the August 2 – August 15, 2017 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Katie Khera

Katie Khera

There’s a very special spot in Morgan Hill filled with books, toys, gourmet coffee and ice cream — and community. It is a place to meet friends, to be inspired by authors and poets, to play games, discover your creativity and learn new things.

For the past 23 years, BookSmart owners Brad Jones and Cinda Meister have persevered against the odds to keep a community bookstore serving our town, creating one of those special “third places,” our “home away from home,” where we can do the work of connecting to others. But BookSmart now needs our help to stay afloat.

Last year the store had to move from its downtown Morgan Hill location due to redevelopment and this expensive and disruptive move has left the owners in debt. You’ll now find them in the pinkish orange circular cornerstone building on East Dunne Avenue across from Nordstrom park. We love their new home. Unfortunately, the cost of moving and the time-line required has taken a toll on the store. Away from downtown, even many locals haven’t yet rediscovered them.

As well, the urgent move didn’t allow them time to find proper financing, so the owners dug deep, using credit cards, personal loans and cash advances to be able to reopen. Staying on top of various interest payments has jeopardized their monthly expenses, including rent. As you may have heard, they were recently given a very short window of time to pay all their back due rent, or vacate the premises. A few generous donors have bought them a couple of additional months and the landlord is willing to work with BookSmart while they look for financing. Now they need some help getting caught up and refinancing the debt. We’re asking you to join us in our campaign to ensure they are able to do great things in this new location and continue serving our community for years to come.

Over the years BookSmart has been much more than just a bookstore. Jones and Meister strongly believe in giving back to the community and have been involved in seemingly every event and organization in town. Following a model established by Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, a group of community members joined with the couple last year to create the nonprofit organization BookSmart Community Advantage, which is fiscally sponsored under the umbrella of the Morgan Hill Community Foundation.

This new nonprofit was created with the specific mission to foster literacy and community through reading, writing, art and educational programs. These programs, such as the annual Gift of Reading, aim to elevate community interest by both supporting literacy and encouraging love of the arts to all residents. Additionally, it aims to establish a warm and friendly environment for our young readers, and to embrace and enrich the diversity of Morgan Hill’s cultural heritage, as well as nurture and expand the influence of arts and crafts in our community. These goals were certainly on display during the recently concluded “Summer Celebration of the Arts” which included art classes, music lessons and performances, poetry and writing workshops, theater audition workshops, and much more held at BookSmart throughout the month of July. That programming is just a taste of what the BookSmart Community Advantage is hoping to continuously bring to our community.
While BookSmart’s retail business is viable on a month-to-month basis, the high interest accrued debt is preventing them from thriving, and will unfortunately take down the associated nonprofit and community contributions along with it.

Advertisements

How can you help? First and foremost, come down to the store and check it out. Browse the books and ask the knowledgeable staff to recommend a great summer read. If the book you’re looking for isn’t there, ask them to order it for you. In most cases it only takes a couple of days to arrive. Check out the toys and games and delight a small child you know with a gift-wrapped present. Treat yourself to their delicious Treat ice cream or a frozen lemonade. And take a break from the hustle and bustle around us to sit and talk with friends, or to meet other community members. Talk to the owners — you’ll generally find one or both of them behind the front desk — about their vision for the store, their place in our town, and the upcoming events and activities, such as author visits, concerts in the park, children’s story times, and much more. Follow the store on Facebook to hear about exciting events and programs coming up.

If you already love BookSmart as much as we do and treasure what it provides to our town, consider giving a little bit extra to help them stay on their feet. Perhaps purchase a gift card and then you’ll be able to treat yourself to books, toys, and ice cream in the next weeks and months, knowing that you were part of keeping the magic alive. Consider donating in the store or through the online campaign at indiegogo.com. If you’re in a position to do more, please consider stepping up, and reach out to Jones and Meister at the store, or by phone or email.

We often hear people in town bemoaning the rapid growth and development, essentially changing the essence of our town. To lose such an important piece of what makes Morgan Hill special would be truly sad. BookSmart is really a community hub and part of the heart of our town.

Katie Khera is involved in the BookSmart Community Advantage nonprofit. She wrote this for Morgan Hill Life.