It takes about 12 full crates to find three good books; it takes about two truncated careers at someone else's boring chain bookstore to make you wanna start your own; and it takes about a year of entrepreneurship and disciplined taste to turn your much-revised business plan into one of the best used bookstores around—and also to find a photo of a girl giving a guy a blowjob tucked away in a recently donated book. Which was called America Speaks. Which is a nice (if seedy) illustration of the thrills of the used-booker's hunt: "I love it," says Shea M. Gauer, who'll be celebrating Open's first birthday this Saturday with co-founder S Reed. "It's fun. You get all filthy, go all through everything—and you know, as soon as you come across something good, 'There it is.'"
Besides having a literally hand-picked selection—from estate sales, the used-book van that cruises literate neighborhoods, the bibliophiles S loves for moving to New York and not wanting to haul their library with them—Open has also established itself as something of a cornerstone in Long Beach's East Village Arts District. S and Shea's (yeah, that is cute!) only-the-best ethos keeps their store swimming in stimuli, with rotating art exhibits—Pop Art-stenciled LPs, lurid wall-size paintings for each deadly sin, a ceiling-mounted exhibit that wedged in so perfectly they didn't even need nails to keep it up—and accompanying sound effects (local DJs, experimental solo artists) at monthly art openings. Think City Lights, except S and Shea aren't into open mics, though all the local art moguls keep floating around, scooping up early psychedelic Pynchons and waiting for the new round of work to go up. Like Koo's around the corner—and the First Street galleries around the other corner—Open has a certain happy versatility that serves as a sturdy foundation for all the local (and not-so-local, like the guy from New Zealand behind the deadly sins) creative types.
So this weekend's anniversary is sort of a celebration of that: for the book types, there's the first-ever Open sale. And for the regulars, there's music inside and out, a gallery retrospective, classy refreshments, and the opening of a new installation on the "art of the printed word." Which is the store's slogan, too, S says.
"With used books," says Shea, "you're trying to preserve a certain quality, not just trying to sell what's hot. It's a more long-standing appreciation."
"And nothing goes on the shelf just to go there," says S. "It's all there because of merit!"
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OPEN BOOKSTORE'S ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY WITH FREE MORAL AGENTS AND ADAM S. AND THE ATHENIAN COUNCIL; DJS PUR ONE, SONIC DREAD AND JACOB (FINGERPRINTS); AND A POETRY READING BY MIKE SONKSEN AND RAINDOG AT OPEN BOOKSTORE, 144 LINDEN, LONG BEACH, (562) 499-OPEN; WWW.ACCESSOPEN.COM. SAT. RECEPTION, 6-10 P.M. FREE.