Culture Spotlight: Warwick’s
Posted on December 10, 2017
Running a successful local retail business — particularly in the age of Amazon — is no small feat. But when yours has been a cultural mainstay for nearly 80 years and bears the distinction as the oldest family-owned and operated bookstore in the country, the work is even more meaningful. So it is for Nancy Warwick, the fourth generation owner of La Jolla’s much beloved Warwick’s on Girard Avenue.
The bookstore features a highly-curated collection of books spanning all categories from best sellers, mysteries, and biographies to rare single copies and premium coffee table books, and everything in between. Customers can also peruse high-end home office and art supplies, gifts, and jewelry. The shop has become such a fixture within the community that it is a part of daily life for many locals, and a must-visit for its many regular out-of-town visitors. “I feel like there’s a lot of love for and attachment to the store, and it’s because of what we offer,” says Warwick, sitting in the office above the store that her parents shared before her. “The store, at times, feels like a neighborhood marketplace, where a lot of the customers know each other, and it’s a really feel-good environment,” she adds. Even furry clientele are a valued part of the store’s dog-friendly atmosphere — longtime buyer Adrian Newell names Noodle the dachshund among their favorite customers. The staff’s personal relationship with customers means that buyers make their choices with specific clients in mind, creating a unique mix on the shelves.
Warwick’s loyal customer base doesn’t mean the store is without its challenges in this time of extreme competition by online retailers. “You have to evolve,” says Newell, a 29-year Warwick’s veteran herself. One of the ways Warwick has prevailed is by increasing the number of events it hosts. The Warwick’s event calendar is a who’s who of the biggest names in the literary, celebrity, and political worlds and an introduction to emerging and self-published authors. “With publishers cutting back, it can be very competitive to get authors to visit your store, but there are times when Warwick’s is the only store in California,” Newell says, beaming like a proud parent. She laughs recalling when Warwick’s itself became a geographic “destination” of sorts: a recent book tour named top U.S. stops as San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Portland — and Warwick’s.Warwick
Despite the place the bookstore holds in the hearts of so many, Warwick embraced the opportunity to take over without trepidation. When her parents let her know of their plans to retire roughly 20 years ago, Warwick had been living in LA with her husband, and in the final year of her dissertation pursuing her PhD in cultural anthropology. Though taking the reins required a lot of change, she says, “I just couldn’t imagine not running the store. It’s in my blood.” warwicks.com Deanna Murphy