Stopped in Saturday afternoon at Bart's Books, the landmark open-air bookstore two blocks off the main drag in Ojai. On a nice day, in a small town, the customers never stopped coming in. Bart's provides everything that the failed book chains never figured out. A jaw-dropping selection. Friendly, knowledgeable conversation. Plenty of places to sit. Ease of browsing. Sunshine.
Bart's calls itself "the largest independently owned and operated outdoor bookstore in the U.S.A." A bit of the backstory:
In 1964 Bart’s Books was little more than a sparkle in the eye of Richard Bartinsdale whose collection of books had gotten so overwhelming that he constructed a series of book cases along the sidewalk so that passersby could peruse the titles.
In lieu of a cash register, “Bart” left coffee cans atop the book cases. People would select a title or two and leave payment in the cans, giving birth to Bart’s world famous tradition of selling books via the honor system.
Since that time Bart’s Books has become host to nearly one million books ranging from the thirty-five cent specials which line the outside walls and are still for sale on the honor system, to rare, out of print first editions, and art books valued in the thousands of dollars.
Nearly half a century after its inception, Bart’s Books continues to mystify patrons, journalists, and book lovers with a character and charm that beggars description and a selection of books that is beyond compare.