In a perfect world, every neighborhood would have at least one thriving book store. But in today’s Amazon-Kindle culture, even some of the longest-lasting book shops have thrown in the towel.
That’s why loyal customers of Harmony Books in Nevada City were horrified when they learned the 25-year-old business would have to leave its Broad Street retail space. In December of last year, owner Stacey Colin was told she would have to be out in 60 days. After briefly considering closing the business altogether, Colin said it was her customers who convinced her to relocate.
“I was so touched that my customers did not want us to close,” said Colin. “Bookstores have a very low profit margin — it’s a real labor of love. But sure enough, my customers have showed up in the new location. I’m very grateful.”
What now may be considered a blessing in disguise, Harmony Books has opened its doors at the foot of Main Street, next to the Nevada City Chamber of Commerce. Situated in one of city’s oldest buildings, the historic “Assay Office,” the airy space boasts ornate, high tin ceilings, exposed bricks, hardwood floors and a fireplace — all accented by modern track lighting along the aisles of tomes.
“I’m delighted with her new location, which is totally charming and historical,” said well-known book lover and namesake of the county library, Madelyn Helling. “I buy books there regularly; it’s a pleasure to visit. We’re lucky to have Stacey.”
A lifelong lover of books, Colin spotted an advertisement in a 1999 issue of The Union stating that Harmony Books was for sale. Fifteen years later, she says she has no regrets.
“I’d always wanted to own a bookstore,” she said.
“I’m a big reader. I love the feel and smell of books. They take you places — it’s awesome what you can learn.”
Over the years, Colin says she has read an average of three to four books a week, making her a valuable resource when it comes to her customers. She also keeps up on the weekly publishers’ catalogues, reads countless reviews and listens closely to her customers.
“Stacey is so well read — oh my gosh,” said longtime customer Sharon Smith.
“She is not just a clerk in a bookstore who is well-meaning and pleasant. She has an incredible knowledge base. She’s got a diverse assortment of books. The service and commitment she offers to the community — including special orders — is a gift to anyone who cares about books.”
Kindles are just a fad, says Colin, who loves it when a young person comes in the store and expresses disdain for the Amazon device that has dealt a hefty blow to her livelihood.
Categories at Harmony Books include modern literature, nonfiction, gardening, photography, cooking, architecture, women’s issues, music, art, children and far more. A handful of nonbook items accent the well-stocked shelves, such as blank journals, puzzles, tarot cards, wrapping paper, greeting cards, pendulums and incense.
When the store opened 25 years ago, its main focus was “New Age,” the metaphysical and local history books, said Colin.
Gradually, much more literature was added, followed by a healthy selection of nonfiction — Colin’s favorite. More recently, she has added books related to sustainable living and is pleased that the farmers’ market will soon be taking place virtually at her doorstep.
“My friend Robert helped me make the new location as beautiful as it is,” said Colin.
“My customers keep the bookstore alive and bring me the greatest joy of sharing a great book.”
To contact staff writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion or call 530-477-4203.