This spring, Westchester will have its very own independent bookstore when The Book Jewel opens its doors on 87th Street. Having a bookstore in Westchester has long been the dream of Drollinger Properties owner, Karen Dial, who has made it her mission to help keep her hometown thriving by championing public art, supporting local causes and serving as the president of the business improvement district. This new space, that serves to connect the community and bring everyone together to appreciate literature, watch a cooking demonstration or enjoy some delicious eats is just another part of her vision for the area.
“Westchester is such a vibrant community and sacred space,” said Dial who named the store after her mother, Jewel, who was an avid reader. “Westchester deserves a world class bookstore. We need more places where the community can gather to meet and build synergy.”
The Book Jewel is on track to open between March and May, according to Sean Moor, who will manage the store. Moor, who also owns the successful Gatsby Books in Long Beach, is looking to bring some of the magic that he’s been able to create there over to Westchester. With no shortage of ideas for the store, he’s excited about hosting author events, creative writing readings led by local students, open mic nights, book club meetings and small intimate musical performances. The store will even have a piano to encourage spontaneous playing.
“We’re looking to create a store that is successful for the long run and that gives the community the best experience possible,” said Moor. “We’re right in the heart of Westchester and this will be a cultural hub that is welcoming to everyone.”
The building will feature three levels: a roughly 3,000-square-foot bottom floor that will serve as the store and café; a smaller second story that will double as a demonstration kitchen and event space; and a rooftop deck with garden.
“It really is going to be a jewel of a bookstore with a beautiful facade and lots of windows,” said Moor. “When it’s lit up at night it is really going to pop. It will be something you can spot as you land at LAX.”
With four paintings on Drollinger- owned properties along Sepulveda, including the large-scale pieces “Welcome to Westchester” and “You Are Beautiful,” it’s no surprise there’s talk of adding artwork to the building located in the Westchester Triangle, either as a mural or in the form of banners that can be changed out to help showcase the store and the community.
Moor says there will be tons of literary works, a deep and interesting selection of new and used books and a special emphasis on travel and cooking titles. To cater to the area’s growing number of families, there will be a generous children’s section, as well.
Food will also play an important role at The Book Jewel. A café, called Tomat, will open later in 2020, and will be run by Dial’s daughter, Natalie Dial, and her partner, Harry Posner, who share a passion for food and backgrounds in health. The café will feature dishes made with seasonal and local ingredients; house-made breads and ferments; California beer and wine and excellent coffee, according to Dial.
The vision for the café came after Posner–a doctor–took time off to attend culinary school in Ireland and Natalie—who is finishing her DrPH and is a public health practitioner—began to think about how to combine health, engagement and shared space.
“The idea of Tomat came from these turning points and setting up this vision next to The Book Jewel is an absolutely ideal place to start,” said Natalie. “Both The Book Jewel and Tomat are meant to be a gathering place and new dynamic for the area–the Sunday Farmers’ Market is just outside our doorstep, which will be the first of many new synergies the cafe and bookstore will bolster. Westchester is a caring, diverse and down-to-earth community, and we hope these new businesses will radiate and expand the ethos that’s always existed here.”
While opening a bookstore may seem like a difficult business in a world full of next-day Amazon packages, Moor says there’s been a resurgence in indie stores in the last five years, with sales up and shops opening ready for book-lovers to search for new novels along the shelves and find a sense of community, which online shopping can’t offer.
Although there’s been a slight delay with the construction timeline because “it’s taken this long to get it just right” and plans have had to be readjusted a few times, Moor is confident that the community won’t be disappointed by the results.
“Westchester is a great place for a bookstore and on days like the farmers’ market, the Triangle is buzzing with energy,” said Moor. “We want this to be another thing that puts Westchester on the map. The first thing people do when they land at LAX is head to In-N-Out, and we hope the second is head to a really great bookstore.”
Posted November 2019.