When my wife and I used to live in Israel, we would come to California every few years to visit her family. We’d drive up to San Francisco for a few days and do the rounds: Golden Gate Bridge, Chinatown, Lombard Street, Cable Car, and The Green Apple Bookstore.
Now it is not like you couldn’t buy English language books in Israel, even used books. In the later years, we even had something called the Internet and this neighborhood bookstore called Amazon. Yet somehow, we found ourselves drawn each visit to this special bookstore and would inevitably leave with bags of books, worried about our luggage weight restrictions.
I was always mystified why Green Apple had this effect on us. It is a store filled with, um, books, and has the same smell as most bookstores (especially the small, cramped independent ones). Now, five years into living in the Bay Area, when I find myself in the Outer Richmond neighborhood, I can’t help but pop in.
Recently I caught up with co-owner, Kevin Hunsanger.
AS: What value does your bookstore provide for the local community?
KH: In addition to offering a welcoming space to freely browse, to meet with friends and to engage in spirited dialogue, Green Apple also regularly hosts author events of all types, both within the store and off-site, in venues ranging from grade schools to dive bars. We also have a very active used book buy counter where folks can turn their unwanted tomes into cash or trade; if we can’t use the material, customers have the option of feeding the free box, an area directly in front of the store where anyone can have books for free.
AS: Who is the most inspiring author you have met? Why?
KH: I have met hundreds of authors in my nearly two decades of work with Green Apple, but the one most inspiring would have to be Dave Eggers. He has an international celebrity that rivals the most popular rock stars, yet he consistently donates his time, money and imprint for a wide variety of causes in a most unassuming manner. Then of course, there was that one lost weekend with Nick Tosches, which began with clandestine Absinthe and ended with my car being totaled – but that’s another story altogether.
AS: What community events or campaigns has your bookstore been involved in?
KH: Green Apple has regular 20% back to schools weekend fundraisers; we donate boxes of books to The Red Cross; we donate gift certificates to various charitable causes for auction. But the campaign that we’re most proud of was 2008’s ‘Give a kid some credit’ year, when we gave each 4th grade student in SF Public Schools a $10.00 gift certificate, no strings attached! We issued about 4000…
AS: If you were to retire tomorrow what would you most miss from your work?
KH: Without a doubt I would miss our customers and wonderful staff most.
Finally, many in the book industry are extremely apprehensive of the ebook advances. I want to share with you the response of the Green Apple’s staff. Click here (www.greenapplebooks.com) and look under videos (at the time of writing it is in the top right corner of the home page) for the 10-part Book .v. Kindle series. Then sit back with a glass of… and enjoy the show!
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com