Although it may seem odd to open a bookstore in today’s marketplace, it’s obvious that Joseph Volansky did his homework on the Excelsior neighborhood before opening Stevens Books in March.
For instance, a significant portion of floor space is devoted to children’s books, young adult fiction and parenting guides due to the large number of families and schools in the area. Moreover, the grand opening party featuring face painting, a puppet show.
The religion section, the second largest portion of the store, is representative of the area’s diverse church population.
Stevens Books is located across the street from a traditional church building that serves two congregations: the Ocean Avenue Presbyterian Church and the Mission Bay Community Church. There are also a number of Catholic churches and families residing throughout the area.
And there are at least three non-traditional church facilities located within a two block radius: one, a Pentecostal Church primarily serving Spanish speaking worshipers, is located above a laundromat; another, located directly across the street, holds services on the second floor above a recently defunct coffee house.
In addition to their extensive collection of books about Christianity, Stevens Books also features sections dedicated to Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and spirituality (New Age and otherwise).
Volansky spoke with pride about his extensive collection of science fiction books and magazines, including vintage Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog, Galaxy and Amazing Stories.
Visitors will also find boxes full of vintage copies of Life Magazine that document major turning points in the United State’s history.
Reflecting the multicultural makeup of the district, there are books in Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean and even German.
One of the highlights of the store is a listening station tucked away in a back corner. The station features a phonograph and several boxes of vintage and/or hard-to-find vinyl 33 and 45 rpms.
The albums hadn’t yet been sorted by genre or alphabet, but among them are Cheap Thrills by Janis Joplin; some John Coltrane, and Les Baxter records; and movie soundtracks including one for The Trip, an obscure piece of Psychedelia set in the Haight-Ashbury during the “Summer of Love” written by a young Jack Nicholson.
Stevens Books is located at 49 Ocean Ave. and online at www.stevensbooks.com.
This article first appeared in The Light’s May 2016 edition.