News Category: Regional News
Tucked into the Main Street street corner of downtown Pleasanton, Towne Center Books offers Pleasanton locals something often lost to our modern age — books. Last week, I took an hour out of my Sunday afternoon to visit this quaint store and catch up on some much-needed reading. A locally owned general bookstore, Towne Center Books offers a wide range of literary opportunities, such as book clubs, writing workshops, and author lunches, even attracting the lauded YA writer John Greene for a session.
The door clicked amiably behind me as I stepped inside, the earthy smell of rainwater and paper in the air. Entire walls are covered in books, from the paperbacks propped up against a central table to the hardcover children’s books stacked in the back. The bookstore had attracted all kinds of people, with a mother and son checking out the latest addition to the wildly popular Dogman series and a group of friends flipping through mystery novels. When I approached the front desk, I met Ms. Anja Pollitz, the bookstore’s devoted employee.
“This building has been here for a long time,” she explains. “Our owner, Judy, bought the bookstore six years ago. Before her, another family sold books. And before that, it was a laundromat owned by a French family .” It was odd to think about our Pleasanton downtown, with its internet cafés and nail salons, in such a historical context. But the city is much older than we realize; these walls and roads that we take for granted have existed for nearly 130 years. When I asked Ms. Anja what most people don’t know about the bookstore, she smiled.
“We have ghosts. Some people, people who have a gift for seeing beyond, have said that there is a Chinese man at the front of the store, near the doorway.” She pointed to the street beyond the store. “And over there? Apparently a child passed away there in a carriage accident and he has been a ghost ever since.” These unseen enigmas, along with two other children supposedly haunting the youth section, have been a rather quiet component of the bookstore.
At first, a chill ran down my spine at the idea of a ‘haunted’ bookstore. Although Ms. Anja mentioned the rare oddity, such as books being placed upside down, these supposed ‘ghosts’ weren’t really the spooky sort. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized how comforting it was — to have the inhabitants of the past watching times pass and pages flip. “Back when I used to have a morning shift, I would enter the store and say, ‘hello ghosts!’”, Ms. Anja laughed.
Rather than literal ghosts, I think the real concern are the figurative ones. For the past five years, tech giants like Amazon Books and Ebay have claimed the Silicon Valley as their own, taking stores like Towne Center Books with them. And while the digitalization of the literary medium is inevitable, it’s rather sad to see bookstores become ghosts of their former selves. I remember watching the first ‘Borders’ in Fremont go out of business, and then the local ‘Barnes and Noble’, entire boxes of unread books loaded into trucks. Not only do these establishments provide us with knowledge, but with an enduring connection to the rest of our community. While I mused about the nature of the dying print industry, a young child approached Ms. Anja.
“When will Dogman come out?” he asks, his head barely reaching the counter. She shot a grin at his mother, and wrote his name in her notebook. “Come back next week, and we’ll have it ready for you.” Eyes shining, he grabbed his mother’s hand to peruse the children’s section, and I smile.
It was a moment that nearly suspended gravity, reminding me that Towne Center Books was, despite everything, very much alive.
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