Ready to embrace an independent bookstore in Gilroy

I had a brief talk with Cinda Meister about the impending
opening of Garlic City Books in downtown Gilroy. She co-owns Morgan
Hill’s Booksmart with Brad Jones.
I had a brief talk with Cinda Meister about the impending opening of Garlic City Books in downtown Gilroy. She co-owns Morgan Hill’s Booksmart with Brad Jones.

The great news is that they project opening within the month. “Our goal is to open in January,” she said, “Whether we achieve that or not is up to my crystal ball.” There’s no firm date yet, but keep your antennae alert.

They’ll likely be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and possibly until 2 p.m. on Sunday. “We’d open earlier on Sundays, because OD’s is so busy,” she said. “We’ll have to see the patterns of shopping downtown; it’s easier to add hours later than to subtract them.”

Gilroy hasn’t had an independent bookstore since Wise Owl on Santa Teresa Boulevard closed several years ago. When I moved here in 2007, it still showed up on Google business search and I spent a fruitless 20 minutes driving back and forth looking for it. When it closed, Cinda and Brad purchased its fixtures but then didn’t end up needing them. They sold them to a bookstore in Menlo Park, which also ended up closing. In a great ironic twist, they recently re-bought the fixtures, and they have made their way back to Gilroy to be part of Garlic City Books.

When asked about competing with Barnes and Noble, Cinda said her store would primarily stock used books and therefore not be a direct competitor. She did add that the store will take special orders for new books, and that generally those orders arrive faster than through Barnes and Noble.

“Our service and knowledge will go a long way,” she said. She and Jones have been in the bookselling business for 15 years in Morgan Hill.

These days, physical books are threatened by ebooks and piracy concerns that affect the music industry as well. Moreover, online purveyors like Amazon have significantly dampened the sales record of countless independent bookstores and spelled their doom. Is Cinda concerned?

“We feel like we’re fighting the good fight. There are still a lot of people who love to read and want to own a physical book,” she said. “It just means we have to work harder. It’s a struggle but one we feel is worthwhile.”

Garlic City Books will also sell coffee and ice cream, and carry literary gift items, greeting cards and magazines.

THE FREE KIND OF BOOKS: Gilroy’s temporary library site’s opening has been delayed another month. The expected February opening will now be in March, according to a staffer I talked to. The discovery of seismic issues in the temporary building led to the postponement. Hmm, no one thought to examine that before? It seems the due diligence was … overdue (gotta love a library joke).

THE HISTORIC KIND OF BOOKS: As a follow-up to my last column, I wanted to congratulate the winner of the trivia contest, Cathy Silveira. She correctly answered, “Pleasant Valley” to the question, “What was Gilroy’s original name?” and won a $10 gift card from First Street Coffee.

Some contention arose over whether the right answer might be “Rancho San Ysidro,” but I went back to the source – the author of the book “Gilroy” – for confirmation. Claudia Salewske tells me, “The area that the city covers actually includes portions of several of the former Ranchos. The village of San Ysidro was a little ways outside today’s city limits – east of today’s freeway and heading out to Pacheco Pass … So for my money, Pleasant Valley is the answer.”

However, in the interest of goodwill, I’m happy to also purchase a gift card for the person who first said Rancho San Ysidro online. That person, “Gilroy Native,” should go back to the comments section for instructions.

A handful of people commented online at, but far more emailed me. Many sent their own memories of Gilroy’s yesteryear, and I really enjoyed reading those. Several wrote in to tell me that if anyone purchases Salewske’s book at the city museum, a portion gets donated back to the museum: very generous of the author!

Perhaps one of the most useful responses to the column yielded information I’ve been wanting ever since I moved here: how to pronounce the street name Princevalle. I’ve heard the “valle” part pronounced as “val,” as “valley” and as “vy-yay.” Brad Bannister wrote me, “Many people mispronounce the name Princevalle. It was named after a local doctor, I believe, and he pronounced it Princevalley with the long e sound at the end.”

And now we shall … close the book on books.

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