It is that time of the week again folks, Bookspot time! This week, we got to catch up with Heidi Rojek, the co-owner of Capital Books in Sacramento, CA. Capital Books are a one-stop shop for books, games, a dog (!!!) and so much more with a planned renovation coming soon. They are the perfect store to get lost in (distanced from fellow shoppers and staff of course), and a must-see for anyone in the area. With their beautiful pictures below, even non-Californians can take a look.
How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?
My husband and I became aware that the former spot that Levinson’s Books used to be in was for rent. We had always said no to opening a bookstore. We were new empty-nesters and eager to travel and not be tied down. But this space was tempting us. Turns out the owner wanted another coffee shop to go in there, but we did see that a space next door to the historic Crest Theater was available. It was larger than it looked on the outside with three 1,500 SF floors. We negotiated a lease, started renovation, and in 93 days, opened in April 2019.
What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?
We’re often told that we offer a unique variety of books. My husband is our buyer, so he tends to lean towards genres he enjoys: science fiction, sequential art, business books. Heidi is the one who generally stocks and displays for the children’s section and the cookbook section. Once our second floor is renovated (goal: September 2020), we’ll expand science fiction & fantasy, cookbooks, Tweens & Young Adult up there. The second floor will ultimately become a wine, beer, and coffee bar with seating, but that’s going to wait until COVID is under control and it’s safe to gather again. First phase will be getting more books upstairs. The basement is another floor that we’ll ultimately renovate. Lots of ideas for that!
If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store?
Well, we also have a rooftop that looks over K Street that we daydream about making into a lounge and reading area. I have visions of handing people reading lights so they can grab a lounge chair and read under the stars. We also have a potential space that our landlord said we can use if we want to bust through a concrete wall that is on top of the popcorn room and womens’ bathroom at the Crest Theater. We’re thinking of maybe making that into a speakeasy. Name the book of the day, and you can enter.
How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?
Well, Downtown has needed a new books bookstore for 10 years — ever since Avid Reader moved to Broadway. Sacramento has a very strong Shop Local mentality. K Street, in particular, needs (still needs) more retail. We have some wonderful restaurants and bars, so we feel that we joined a few other retailers coming downtown to offer more than food and beverage. The Capitol and State workers are very nearby, and they’re always looking for something to do during lunch in addition to eating. Our bookstore is a perfect stop for them before heading back to the office or for theater-goers before a movie or concern (pre-COVID, of course).
What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?
Oh, this is my favorite question! Every indie retailer offers that personal experience that no online chain distributor can never match. We know our customers and what they like to read. We often are baby’s first outing after they’re born. Children come in to talk to my husband about books he thinks they’ll like to read next. A chain store’s recommender engine might be able to suggest something in the vein you’ve already read, but they’ll never be able to recommend something to move you outside of your box. We can do that. You also can’t get samples of recipes made from cookbooks on the shelf. You can at Capital Books. Heidi loves to cook, so you’ll often have muffins, cookies, and breads available to try (pre-COVID).
Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?
Absolutely! We have a small staff who have specific genres they specialize in. All of our staff have either worked in a bookstore before. We have one who is a poetry author and former librarian.
How else do you create a welcoming environment?
What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood:
We’re rounding out the robust restaurant and bar scene in the neighborhood.
Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?
The anti-racism books are big sellers these days, obviously. We recently listed on our website the James Beard Award Winners. We sell a lot of cookbooks.
Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?
Absolutely. We spent nearly a year learning what our customers want, which wasn’t what we thought. We figured, because we’re so near to the Capitol and State workers, that they’d want political and business books. On the contrary! Most of them want to escape what they do all day. General Fiction is our best-selling genre, followed by science fiction & fantasy, then cookbooks. We adjusted what we’re stocking based on that.
Is there anything else that you’d like our audience to know?
Shopping local is so important — especially for independent bookstores. We can obtain a book for you in just about the same time that Amazon can. We also began delivering books during COVID, which will continue to offer because our customers love it. Oh, and we have a cool dog that customers love to come in to see. Our motto is: “Come for the dog; stay for the books.”
You can find Capital Books @ 1011 K Street, Sacramento, CA 95811
All images via Capital Books