Half Moon Bay: 5 Bookstores & Not A Borders or Barnes & Noble Among Them

Who says Independent bookstores can’t survive?

There are five bookstores to choose from on the Half Moon Bay Coastside, each with a different personality.

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Inga and Jules Sofer pose in front Coastside Books & Cards

When I first moved here in the 1970s, there was one bookstore called Coastside Books, located in an old house on Kelly Ave, near Highway 1. The proprietors were Diane and Richard Gates, an attractive and intellectual young couple. [Friends tell me Richard still lives on the Coasstside but he doesn’t use email.]

In the late 1970s Inga and Jules Sofer bought the Gates’ Coastside Books and moved with the store several times, always seeking a more comfortable location, from Kelly Ave to Main Street, where at one point they were neighbors of Elizabeth McCaughey’s tea and coffee shop.

When my “Half Moon Bay Memories: The Coastside’s Colorful Past” book was published in 1978, Inga hosted a booksigning at her shop [after a gallery run by Randall Reid on Kelly Ave hosted the first one] then located in one of Half Moon Bay’s old style Main Street house.

I know this: When you talk to Inga you feel like you’re sharing words with a close friend. Her smile is warm and genuine, her wit right on target. She knows writers, local and international, and she’s blunt when judging these artists.

And when it comes to finding extraordinary greeting cards, the kind you pen a special note on, Inga has superb taste. I’ve never seen a finer selection of artistic cards anywhere.

Inga remains the moving force and husband Jules is always supportive and friendly. I saw them today and its always a great pleasure to visit with these professionals.

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I’ve known Bay Book’s Kevin Magee just as long as I’ve known Inga and Jules Sofer. By “knowing,” I mean all these folks are professional booksellers.

But they are good in different ways. While Inga’s style is more intimate, Kevin is more outgoing.

As I recollect, I first met Kevin at a bookshop he owned in San Carlos; this would be around the time my “Half Moon Bay Memories: The Coastside’s Colorful Past” was published. He at once impressed me as a go getter, as enthusiastic about his shelves and tables of books as he was about selling them to his customers.

He’s a Coastside native with a keen knowledge of history, anxious to share all he knows. If you need a book, he gets it quick and his loyal staff are book lovers, too.

In Half Moon Bay, Bay Book was first located in a “shopping center” on the east side of Highway 1 before Kevin settled into his longtime location at the Strawflower Shopping Center.

This Friday, December 14 at 7 pm, Bay Book will be hosting a booksigning for my new book, “Princeton-by-the-Sea.”

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Kirk works at Moon News Bookstore, 315 Main Street, Half Moon Bay–conveniently located next door to the Pasta Moon, one of the Coastside’s finest restaurants.

Mark Sipowicz owns Moon News Bookstore–and yes, his name is spelled the same as the hard-boiled Detective Andy Sipowicz on the long running NYPD Blue tv show. But the resemblance ends there.

Mark owns a bookstore that everybody I know says has been attractively set up–it may be the “perfectly” designed bookstore– a pleasure to browse around and to easily find the right book.

The store is located next door to the Pasta Moon Restaurant, and after a delicious lunch or dinner, accented with wine, there is nothing more delightful than walking into Moon News and scanning newspapers from all over the world as well as the latest book titles.

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Photo: Ronda Quain helps customers looking for all kinds of used books at Ocean Books at 416 Main Street (650.726.2665) in Half Moon Bay. The store is located in the center of the shopping district, near restaurants and boutiques.

Whenever I walk by Ocean Books, I always check out the titles displayed in the window. That’s where the books I missed the first time around are, and I’m always surprised— I’ll point and say to Burt, “Look! There’s a book about the history of wine, modern architecture or a great mystery story I always wanted to read—collector items as well.

Ocean Books is chocked full of used books, all in fine condition, paperbacks and clothbound. That’s their specialty and if there’s book that’s hard to find, they’ll try to get it.

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Inkspell is new to me as a bookstore–located in the historic Half Moon Bay Mercantile Building at 500 Purissima Street (650.726.65711) in Half Moon Bay, next door to the quirky cafe called La Di Da.

When I came here in the 1970s, the Mercantile Building housed a meat market. Across the way stood the Half Moon Bay Post Office, then very small, and even earlier that location belonged to the two-story Occidental Hotel (where the stagecoach dropped passengers off in the 1890s.)

We often park near Inkspell and I always look at the window display, filled with best-selling books as well games and children’s toys…

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more coming……