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Santa Monica Means Business: Diesel Books Opens at Brentwood Country Mart

The old saying “One door closes and another door opens” could be applied to bookstores. While the Westside area is still stunned about the closing of Dutton’s Brentwood a few months ago, local book-lovers can rejoice that a new store has opened in the same area – a new branch of Diesel, A Bookstore at the Brentwood Country Mart.

Diesel had a “soft opening” as owner John Evans puts it, on September 16. “We opened the doors and people just sort of drifted in.” On September 17, the fledgling store held its first special event. Actor (and best-selling author of two non-fiction books) Alan Alda held forth in the Country Mart patio, talking about his M*A*S*H days and the consequences of his subsequent fame to a standing-room only crowd.

Evans opened the first Diesel Books in Oakland in 1989. Told by others that it was a “terrible time” to open a bookstore, he said that he was determined to open anyway. “Less critiquing and more joy,” was how he put it. He later opened a second store in Malibu and continues to operate both stores.

“The landlord has been interested for three or four years in having a bookstore in the Brentwood Country Mart,” says Evans. “He approached various bookstores… nobody was interested in going in there because Dutton’s was just up the street.” But when Dutton’s closed, after refusing the Country Mart space as an option, “the landlord went around and asked bookstores again. He thought it was a sad thing for a community to lose its bookstore.”

Evans notes that the loss of regional cultural bookstores, such as Santa Monica’s Midnight Special, and the three Cody’s Bookstores in the San Francisco Bay area, is a “tragedy.”

“We’re trying to replace that. We’re trying to give people in the community what they want.

“People are amazed at the range of titles we have in our stores. But obviously we can’t go as deeply as a regional store like Dutton’s which had much more variety and much more interesting titles than the chains do.”

But he adds: “People are constantly finding things they didn’t know existed. We don’t do 50 copies of one book on the table. We do 50 different titles. We do presses of all sizes, from presses of only one title to the largest publishers in the world.

“What you really care about is advocating for the reader’s taste. You’re trying to bring the most interesting and informative imaginative writing at anyone time. The last thing you want to do is have a bookstore where you have what anybody can get anywhere.”

Evans had hoped to open by August 1 but was delayed by the store’s construction. “We still have to put a floor in. We’re going to have limited hours because of construction over the next couple of weeks. But by October 1 we should be open with regular hours.”

He is planning to have larger events in other Brentwood venues, such as schools and synagogues. But, the Malibu store, about the same amount of square footage as the Brentwood location, has been known to accommodate as many as 200 people for an event. The new store’s central bookcases are equipped with rollers so they can be moved to the side of the room to allow space for events. And of course, the patio will be available for events in warmer weather.

Diesel, A Bookstore, is located at 225 W. 26th St., 310.456.9961, dieselbookstore.com. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

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