Nearly 30 years ago, a galaxy was born in San Diego.
Mysterious Galaxy, that is, a bookstore that opened its doors on May 8, 1992, to eager fans that the store says included Bradbury, David Brin, and Robert Crais.
The galaxy also expanded, although barely: Founders Terry Gilman and Maryelizabeth Yturralde decided in late 2018 to to find new owners, but the search took months and a 60-day eviction notice threatened to shutter the shop entirely. Matthew Berger and Jennifer Marchisotto only learned through an Instagram post that Mysterious Galaxy was on sale and a last-moment deal was struck.
The ownership transfer happened in January 2019, and the bookstore moved to its largest location yet for a February 8, 2020 grand opening. Of course you might be able to tell by the date that another threat was looming — COVID-19 and the consequent state-wide lockdown orders. According to an August 2020 interview:
Matthew and Jenni had only been open for six weeks when the state shut down all non-essential businesses. They’ve learned how to work with most of the staff from home. They rely on Slack messages, Zoom calls, and Google Docs to communicate.Terry Ambrose, “New Owners of the Bookstore Mysterious Galaxy,” Kings River Life Magazine, August 15, 2020
Fortunately, the bookstore has survived through internet sales, virtual panels and screenings, social media community building channels, and more — and finally re-opened with much fanfare and costumes on July 24, 2021.
Catastrophic events force change. Going back in the popular public memory, Y2K might well be the last event that urged businesses and individuals to upgrade their infrastructure. Yet Mysterious Galaxy’s recent history presents a fascinating alternate universe to imagine: Without new owners, would the bookstore have made this e-commerce and digital investment or would the doors have closed its doors and never hit thirty?
Much to ponder. In the meantime, the San Diego institution and other bookstores have continued to allow farflung authors a way to reach readers without a significant travel outlay. In the case of MIDNIGHT HOUR, people from different regions in the United States can come together for a rousing reading. Hope to see you all “there.”