Noemi de Bodisco does not hesitate to answer when asked whether physical books are winning or losing the competition against digital rivals.
“Is anyone in 20 years going to look at a shelf of defunct e-readers?” de Bodisco said.
She should know. Not only is de Bodisco the owner of three thriving bookstores, in Santa Fe, Taos and Las Vegas, N.M., she also is a 30-year veteran of the disruptive technology world, having worked for one of the original online booksellers, been a systems programmer and run data centers.
“There is an aesthetic to it all,” she said. “There is very little aesthetic with a digital flat file.”
The largest of de Bodisco’s bookstores is op.cit. in the DeVargas Center mall. There, a visitor is greeted by thousands of books on shelves lining both sides — and most of the middle — of a large retail space. In the back of the store are piles of more books waiting their turn on the shelves.
Covering nearly every conceivable subject, those books are handpicked by de Bodisco and her staff to join a cornucopia of ideas assembled to give every reader something to discover and be thrilled by.
“We spend a lot of time acquiring our books,” de Bodisco said. “We spend a lot of time and work on it. I go to estate sales. I go to all the big book fairs. And we trade with our customers every day. We get phenomenal collections in the door. We love books. We don’t want any book to go homeless.”
It certainly was not easy for de Bodisco and her staff to find a long-term home in Santa Fe. Op.cit. started out in a tiny location on Baca Street, which was fine but not exactly what she had in mind when she chose Santa Fe over San Francisco for the location of her bookstore.
“Before I found Baca Street, I looked all over San Francisco for a location to open a bookstore,” de Bodisco said. “We found that space on Baca Street, and it was done on a handshake.”
Op.cit., which became well known in the Santa Fe literary scene for its Nickel Story night (a participating reader/writer gets five minutes in front of an audience), soon outgrew its space.
“That Baca space got our feet wet,” de Bodisco said. “We got established and then moved over to Sanbusco. We landed at Sanbusco, and we were hoping it would be permanent.”
But after Sanbusco Market Center was purchased by the New Mexico School for the Arts, a charter high school, op.cit. was on the move again.
It landed in a 3,800-square-foot space in DeVargas Center, which now feels like home, de Bodisco explained.
“They were so welcoming here,” she said. “To be honest with you, there are not many places that are big enough with adequate parking; that’s what our customers told us mattered the most — adequate parking.”
The move has proved lucrative, too.
“It has grown, absolutely grown,” de Bodisco said. “Our worst day here is better than our average days at Sanbusco. This last Christmas holiday season was wonderful. It was our best season ever.”
Though San Francisco is celebrated for literary destinations like City Lights and Green Apple, de Bodisco said Santa Fe has been a terrific choice.
“The culture of Santa Fe is very important,” de Bodisco said. “Santa Fe is very much a book town, very much an art town. The aesthetic of the book is still very important.”
She believes strongly that there is plenty of room at the top with the Powell’s and Strand bookstores of the world.
“I would like to be considered one of the best bookstores in the country,” she said. “I always wanted to build something I was comfortable shopping in. You’ve got to be interesting. You’ve got to have a point of view; you’ve got to have a highly curated point of view. Every book in here is chosen for a reason. They’ve got to be clean. They’ve got to be gift-able, and they’ve got to run a wide gamut of interesting subjects. We are not just a narrow, one-subject bookstore. We’re very, very broad.”
During the time op.cit. has been making a name for itself in Santa Fe, it has expanded into some notable literary spaces in Taos and Las Vegas.
In the heart of Taos is op.cit. Taos, in the space formerly occupied by Moby Dickens (a name de Bodisco attempted to buy and could not). In Las Vegas is Tome on the Range, which doubles as a bookstore and op.cit.’s online shipping facility.
Op.cit. believes in writers. Local writers are permitted to sell their own books for free.
“I think we are the only bookstore that allows authors to hold their own events and sell their own books,” de Bodisco said. “We understand how tough the business is.”
Support from Santa Fe’s rich vein of major writers has been instrumental, too.
“I hope they understand it makes a huge difference in keeping local bookstores healthy,” de Bodisco said.
According to de Bodisco, op.cit. has nothing but a bright future ahead.
“I just feel like we have kind of got our footing,” she said. “Our feet are on the ground. It can only get better. I feel like we have turned the corner, and I feel like the future is bright and rosy and full of books … I hope.”
Contact Jeff Norris at email@example.com