The Book Loft celebrates its 50th anniversary
The Book Loft in Solvang celebrated its 50th anniversary over the weekend with an open house — its annual tradition.
But it has made a few adjustments over the years (especially lately) while holding tightly to the charming pieces that have sustained it through its 50 years.
The Book Loft was opened in 1970 by Gary and Kathy Mullins in a second-floor spot around the corner from its current storefront. The upstairs unit inspired the business name.
Now located at 1680 Mission Drive, it’s a Solvang staple. There’s a large selection downstairs, including rare books, and a museum upstairs dedicated to Danish fairytale author Hans Christian Andersen.
“The expectation for what a bookstore’s position in the community has changed a lot in the past 50 years,” manager Echo Molina told the News-Press. “We’re still at our top with customer service, people’s relationship to the books — the things that make a brick-and-mortar store so important.”
The shop has to move at a quicker pace to keep up with modern demands and have a larger selection on hand. Board games are a popular new addition.
Each year, the store’s anniversary marks the start of the holiday season. Staff members hold an open house with discounts on popular books.
Last weekend’s 50th anniversary open house was spread across three days, so customers didn’t have to crowd to be part of the celebration.
The weekend kicked off with a presentation by Solvang City Councilman Robert Clarke. He presented a commemorative banner, giving thanks to The Book Loft’s service to the community.
Local businesses were involved in the celebration. Solvang Bakery made a gingerbread house in the shape of the store, complete with miniature books.
At sunset Friday and Saturday, local musicians performed on the patio. Keeping with the shop’s family-friendly atmosphere, students from Solvang’s Song In My Heart Studio played Saturday.
Because Hans Christian Anderson wrote “The Little Mermaid,” Ms. Molina hired Katie Samuel of Parties and Paint by Kate to visit the second day as Ariel.
Wearing a sequin tail and a fake shell bikini top, she greeted guests and handed kids balloons.
Sunday, she returned as the Snow Queen. Kids may not know the character from Mr. Andersen’s book of the same name, but they recognize Disney’s animated adaptation: “Frozen.” The Snow Queen was the inspiration for the character of Elsa (voice of Broadway actress Idina Menzel).
While the bookstore’s Hans Christian Andersen Museum is closed under purple tier guidelines, staff members were able to bring many of his books downstairs. Some were on sale last weekend.
Usually, the open house is buzzing with people shopping for Christmas presents. Ms. Molina has noticed people buying gifts early this year.
“We’ve been trying to keep people’s favorite books in stock,” she said. “We have people coming in year after year.”
She sometimes assists customers picking out gifts for grandkids and other loved ones.
Even though COVID-19 complicated the business, customers stayed loyal. They bought gift cards, ordered books by phone and purchased presents.
“People have been great. They’ve been very thoughtful and understanding that a store like ours needs a customer base to stay,” she said. “They’re doing what they can to make sure we’re around.”
While many tourists come through, Solvang locals are the regular customers. Some customers vacation in Solvang a few times a year and make sure to buy books when they are in town.
Ms. Molina is glad she can serve the community in an unsettling season. She thinks books are important among the stress.
“They allow for an escape when you can’t escape physically,” she said. “They allow you to escape to a different place or time during a time when we’re over stimulated by everything and we’re not able to socialize like we used to.”
“They provide a way for our brains to relax but still have fun,” she said.
Even with changing times, she’s confident in The Book Loft’s role.