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Canetti's Bookshop: A Pleasant Place To Browse And Buy

The owner of the downtown Orinda book store has kept his small business open through the worst recession in a half-century

Canetti's Bookshop in downtown Orinda
Canetti's Bookshop in downtown Orinda

Canetti's Bookshop in Orinda is a pretty simple operation.

There's no coffee sold there. There's no audio tapes on the shelves. No video games to snatch up.

It's just books. Hundreds of them, neatly laid out in an easy-to-browse fashion.

The shop across the road from the Orinda Theatre in downtown Orinda is owned by Jeff Koren.

Koren opened the shop in March 2008 after his job as a manager at Bonanza Books ended when that Walnut Creek business shut its doors.

That's about all he'll say about himself, other than the fact he's always loved books.

Koren said it's hard to explain his affection for books. He said it's like asking someone why they like chocolate.

Koren said he chose the Orinda location because he felt there was a need for a small bookstore there and he really liked the town.

"This is a very pleasant community. I very much like the Lamorinda area," he said.

Koren named the shop after Elias Canetti, the Bulgarian-born novelist who won the 1981 Nobel Prize for literature and was also a person who had a great love for books.

The book store opened just after the economy collapsed. Despite the sluggish market, Koren has kept his shop open and thriving for almost six years, a tough accomplishment for an independent book store owner.

Koren does it, in part, by keeping his costs down.

His shop is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and Koren is he person who is usually there.

Koren also uses a type of credit system for used books instead of paying cash. The people who bring in "gently used" books get store credit.

These cost savings, he says, allows him to keep his prices competitive.

He also stocks a wide selection.

They range from current selections such as "Beautiful Ruins" to classics like Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird."

There's also non-fiction ranging from history to biographies to nature to travel essays.

Koren said he also keeps his shop clean and well-organized.

"When someone comes in here to browse, it's easy for them to find what they want," he said.

Amanda Bains, a friend and a regular customer, agrees.

She said she likes the selections, the prices and the atmosphere inside Canetti's.

"I like coming here," she said. "There's a lot of good literature here."

The walls are also decorated by posters made from photos taken by Orinda native Annelyse Gelman, a friend of both Koren and Bains. Most of her photos inside the shop are taken in Orinda.

Another staple of the Canetti's is Koren's two cats, who live in the back of the shop and frequently come out to greet visitors.

All in all, Koren keeps plugging away, bucking the odds and being surrounded by the books he loves.

"I think people appreciate a good book store like ours," he said.

Candy Kattenburg, executive director of the Orinda Chamber of Commerce, adds the secret to Canetti's success is simple.

She says it has a terrific location and it's a pleasant place to shop. 

Joan Davies December 06, 2013 at 09:22 PM
Where is the address for Cannetti's. Bookstore? "Across the street fr the Orinda Theatre is not helpful at all! :(
David Mills (Editor) December 06, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Hi, Joan: It's 39 Moraga Way. If you go to the link in the first sentence of the story, it has the address, a map and other information. Hope this helps.
Terri Moss December 09, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Every time I’ve dropped in, I’ve seen a book (or three) that I’ve had to have. It’s local, family/one-person run stores like these that give our town a unique, charming quality. We need more stores like this one! Congratulations Koren. Keep up the good work and thank you for sharing your love of books with us.

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