End of an era: Ventana Chapter Bookstore closes
by Mary Gale
||Do you recognize these monkeys? From l to r: Dawn
Cope, R. Merrill Jones, and Joyce Stevens do their best to find new uses for Sierra Club
cups in order to promote sales. The 1977 ad developed from this photo read: "Don’t
monkey around-Come on down to the Sierra Club Environmental Center for cups and
t-shirts." Photo: Peter Figen
The Chapter bookstore, long an institution in Carmel closed in early
July. For over 28 years the bookstore was staffed entirely by volunteers,
an incredible achievement.
The Ventana Chapter Sierra Club bookstore began life as an environmental
center where chapter members could read in the library (stocked
with donated books on outdoorsy subjects), discuss conservation
issues, and write letters to politicians and government agencies.
Joyce Stevens, Dawn Cope, Corky Matthews, and R. Merrill Jones headed
up the effort to establish the bookstore with carpentry help from
Ed Cope. Long-time member and hike leader, Bob DeYoe, agreed to
charge a very low rent for the upstairs space in his Las Tiendas
Building on the south side of Ocean Avenue in Carmel.
After much hard work, both planning and building, the Chapter received
a permit from the City of Carmel and opened on Groundhog Day of
1977. Though very stingy with permits for signs, the city eventually
agreed to allow a sign for the Sierra Club Environmental Center
in the arch above the stairs.
The committee recruited volunteers to work in the center and in
ensuing years welcomed Hulda Bonestell as recruiter, trainer and
supervisor of the many volunteers who gave their time so selflessly.
Each year at Christmas, Alice Goulding opened her home on Randall
Way for a party to acknowledge the great contribution made by the
||The Humpback whale above
is one of 27 species of cetaceans that frequent the Monterey
Bay Marine Sanctuary. Photo: Chad King/MBNMS/NOAA
To attract customers who might not see the sign, the group created
silly ads to draw attention to the center and its wares (Sierra
Club cups, t-shirts, etc.). In one, Joyce, Dawn and Merrill pose
as the monkeys who see, hear and speak no evil-their eyes, ears,
and mouths covered by Sierra Club cups. Another depicted Dawn wearing
Sierra Club cups as earrings.
Many other chapter members contributed to the center's success.
Ansel Adams, a charter member of the Ventana Chapter, presented
some of his photographs to enhance the ambiance. This gift had been
solicited by Ken Wood, a member who worked tirelessly on behalf
of the Coastal Act.
The lack of a prominent sign had always been a problem. It was
remedied in 1986 when the City of Carmel adopted a freer set of
planning standards. Joyce Stevens seized the opportunity to get
an overhead sign for the building facade as well as permission to
paint a sign on the wall above the stairs. For nearly 20 years the
improved signage has been guiding customers to the space known as
the Sierra Club Bookstore.
In recent years the management of the bookstore has been in the
very capable hands of Charlotte Anderson and Gil Gilbreath. With
help from buyers Paul Jones and Mary Gale, the bookstore had an
up-to-date inventory of the most popular books on natural history,
photography, hiking and camping as well as a delightful selection
of children's titles. Bruce Rauch has worked tirelessly as treasurer,
and Vi Fox and then Rita Summers recruited and scheduled the volunteers
who were thanked once a year with a celebratory luncheon.
Joyce Stevens reflects, "It's a sad thing to see the end of
an era. This has been the Ventana Chapter's presence in the community,
a place for positive interactions with members as well as folks
who have never even heard of the Sierra Club." The difficulty
of finding an affordable replacement space for the little rooms
at Las Tiendas means that the bookstore will probably not be reestablished
at another location.
< back to all issues