By Pamela Dozois
This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Book Loft in Solvang, the oldest independent bookstore under continuous ownership in Santa Barbara County. A traditional Open House, which has always been held on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, was coupled with its 50th anniversary celebration, which had been planned for April 2, but due to COVID-19, was postponed to Friday, Nov. 20.
The event was attended by members of the community and store staff, who gathered in the courtyard to celebrate the occasion.Solvang City Councilman Robert Clarke presented Kathy Mullins, owner of The Book Loft with a banner and gave a small speech saying, “The Book Loft is the heart of the community and a special place where locals and tourists can browse. I love this place.” Glasses were then raised in a toast by all in Mullins’ honor.
Solvang Bakery’s Susan Halme and her head baker of 40 years, Armando Uribe, created a custom-made gingerbread house of The Book Loft which is on display in the store.
The Book Loft’s longest-tenured employee is Elaine Revelle, who has been with the store since 1977. She was presented with a bouquet of white roses by Lynne Hemming, Mullins’ daughter.
Kathy Mullins has been the proprietor and the main book buyer, along with her late husband Gary, since the doors opened in the spring of 1970. The couple had moved to the Santa Ynez Valley in the early 1960s. They loved the area so much they wanted to find a way to stay.
When asked how they came to open a bookstore in Solvang, Mullins said that she “could not remember who came up with the idea,” but recalls “the idea quickly became a subject of our after-dinner conversations. I guess we started the bookstore because we thought the town needed one. We convinced ourselves that if we didn’t try to open one, we might later regret not taking the chance.”
“My Mom and Dad created, built and sustained a family business which we are so proud of, in a community which we love and which also supports us,” said Hemming.
The initial location of The Book Loft was in a small space up a narrow staircase above Natalie’s Doll House in the Rasmussen Building on Alisal Road. After a modest success, during its first two years in operation, it became apparent that to prosper and grow, the store needed to expand and relocate to a street level. With the help of realtor Fil Condit, the Mullins were able to purchase a piece of land on Mission Drive and retained Dallas Brown, an architect and one of their earliest customers, to design the building in Danish Provincial architecture. The building was completed in 1974. Over time, it grew into one of the community’s most treasured institutions, still thriving 50 years later.
“Over the years we’ve had so many wonderful people who worked at The Book Loft,” Mullins said. “There is a lot of detail involved working at a bookstore and it takes time to learn. Our current staff is exceedingly well rounded when it comes to books, competent and eager to assist. I’m very happy to work with these people.
“The Book Loft has given me over the past 50 years a wonderful sense of community,” Mullins continued. “Interacting with the public and sharing my love of books in this beautiful Valley has been and continues to be a blessing.”
The Book Loft is at 1680 Mission Drive, Solvang, and houses the Hans Christian Andersen Museum, along with new releases, rare and antiquarian books and a children’s section filled with books, puzzles and games.
For more information, call 805-688-6010 or visit bookloftsolvang.com.