Since 1979, Downtowne Bookstore has presented the Riverside community with a diverse selection of donated secondhand books.
Located at the corner of 6th and Main streets, Downtowne Bookstore has been operated by sisters Nadia and Vera Lee since November 2002. The sisters said they dreamed of owning a bookstore since high school.
In 2002, Nadia said she was in a car accident and a few months later her mother died.
“In September the money from those two events came to me and we were in downtown trying to decide what to do with books I did not want when (the owner) asked us, ‘Do you know anyone who would want to buy a bookstore?’” Nadia said.
Over coffee at Back to the Grind, the two discussed the possibility of buying the store. At a young age, Nadia said their mother instilled a love for
reading in them that led to
When customers arrive in the store, they are welcomed by rows of books, art by local artists and a collection of more than 200 owls as figurines, pictures and decor.
“When we first moved in, a lot of the stores downtown had birds or animals in their logos or names,” Vera said. “We settled on an owl, because the owl is wise, educated and smart.”
The store offers a children’s section to foster another generation of readers. All books available are secondhand books and some are found at local estate sales. If a customer cannot find a book, Downtowne Bookstore offers a service that locates the book for customers.
“I liked the variety of books they had,” said Jake Ceja, freshman criminal justice major. “I got to explore different topics and learned new things I did not know before.”
Rebecca Moreno, sophomore criminal justice major, said she appreciates the unique atmosphere the store offers.
“Wandering around, there were so many old interesting books to look at,” Moreno said. “I love when things look worn and like they have been used for so long. There is meaning behind it.”
Nadia commented that her customers give her hope for humanity. In 13 years, she and Vera have watched regular customers graduate college, get married and have children.
“My favorite part about the store is meeting the people who come in,” Vera said. “You get a whole different group of kids in here and they are bright, interested and it is refreshing; it gives you hope for the future.”