OAKHURST – To say people are excited about the new shop Branches Books and Gifts opening in Junction Plaza Center at 9 a.m. on Monday, June 3, would be putting it mildly.
So fond are we of books and the excitement and positive view of our economic outlook, that when we got a quick preview today, it was all we could do not to drool on the merchandise.
Owner Anne Driscoll is pretty pumped up, too. The shop is all done up in a style she calls, “urban chic, vintage, industrial-yet-sassy.”
“I am very excited,” says the newly-minted shopkeeper. “This has been 10 months in the true planning of it, but I have wanted to open a store for probably 20 years. I finally got the courage to do it, and I hope everybody likes it and comes in and feels cozy.”
Contained within just 1,000 square feet, the shop has an intimate feel yet manages to remain spacious. Driscoll packs a lot of product into the space, creating an atmosphere that’s clean and inviting, full yet not cluttered, and with a lot more than books.
“I want people to feel that they can come in and browse and find something that will inspire them,” she says. “We have nice body care products and lotion samples, educational toys and lots of fun stuff.”
On Monday, Driscoll plans a “soft” opening and looks forward to meeting new customers and seeing old friends. She has surprises in store, too.
“It is so on! Monday, June 3, all of the hardback books are going to be 20% off (with children’s books and some others excluded),” says the enthusiastic owner. “We’re going to do some raffles and drawings, so people should stop in and sign up, maybe win some gift cards. We’ll do a little give-away and get opened up!”
Besides a strong variety of books of all sorts, including a terrific children’s section complete with little chairs for young browsers, Driscoll is offering birthday supplies, Yosemite memorabilia, lotions, potions and gorgeous flannel shirts. That’s just a partial list.
Located in Junction Plaza near a restaurant, clothing store, hairdresser and other businesses, Driscoll’s book setup is fresh and appealing. She explains that her talent for decorating goes back to school girl days.
“When I was in 6th grade we were throwing a surprise party for my teacher, and the moms were trying to put the streamers up. I grabbed the streamers from them and put them up myself because they were doing it wrong,” she confesses.
Driscoll is apparently the sort of woman who simply makes everything look better after she’s had her magic way with it. She has managed to hone her design talents on every job she’s had.
“I started working at Longs Drug in my early 20s and they always had display contests,” she says. “I was in the cosmetics department and every two weeks they held a cosmetics display incentive contest. My manager actually trained me. He would just say, ‘You need to put it in this kind of a cluster, do this…'”
Now she’s living her dream-style. “If you look around, you’ll see there’s a kind of messy quality to the merchandising. I like it to look all crazy because then, when you get into it, you find something awesome.”
The energetic mom of a Wasuma Elementary School student also has a talent for marketing; she handles social media for small business like Yosemite Swim Club in Oakhurst. For now, her focus remains on opening Branches in just a few days, and she’s had lots of help, including family.
“My in-laws helped my husband do a lot of the woodwork, and we built the shelves together. All my friends have been so encouraging, just giving me great advice.”
Some may recall it wasn’t that long ago that Oakhurst’s previous bookstore, Willow Bridge, went out of business after moving twice in about as many years. Anyone who appreciated that store’s efforts – and misses the previous owner – will be pleased to hear that Monica and staff are supportive of Driscoll’s shop.
“Monica has been lovely!” says Driscoll. “I had a gentleman come in this morning who said Monica had sent him over. She’s been so kind.”
Finally, we asked Driscoll to define her sensibilities and what’s inspired her.
“There are so many great stores in town, so I tried to not mimic any of those. Instead, I tried to strike a balance so when people come to our town, they know there are all these fabulous and unique places to shop.”