Amy Thomas, owner of Pendragon, for the East Bay Express Indie Revolution
We have recently profiled new, up-and-coming small businesses in Oakland, many of which sell exclusively online. But Oakland is also home to small, independent businesses with storefronts that have been around for years, some even decades. These are the stores that you grow up with, that add character to your community and childhood memories. They are also the stores that set examples for other small businesses in how they treat their employees and serve their clients and community.
Pendragon Books in the Rockridge neighborhood is one of these independent businesses. Pendragon has been in its same location for nearly forty years. They have been there so long that the children who used to come with their parents to check out the books continue to come back as adults with their own children. Many staff members have also grown up with the independent bookstore-several have worked for Pendragon for a decade, some even two decades.
Having been in the independent book business for so long, Pendragon knows a thing or two about operating a successful small business that is competitive with the services offered at any chain bookstore. All staff members are trained to do everything in the store, from helping customers find a book to buying high-quality used books. Staff members also earn a living wage and get full benefits. This partly explains why so many have stayed with Pendragon for so long, but it also demonstrates Pendragon’s commitment to sustaining small businesses. As Amy Thomas, Pendragon’s owner, says, the store is putting its money where its mouth is in terms of advocating for supporting small businesses.
Many new customers come to Pendragon unaware of the top-notch service they can get at an independent book store. Pendragon’s shelves are well stocked with a wide variety of titles, both new and used, and anything that isn’t in its stockroom can be ordered and shipped to the store within a few days. Their prices are comparable to the ones you would see at a big book store. Pendragon’s staff is also knowledgeable about the books they offer, and can suggest book titles and recommendations the way staff at a big book store cannot.
But Pendragon is more than just a bookstore in Oakland; it acts as an engaged member of the community. Pendragon features local authors and sells beautiful gift cards, many designed by local artists. It gives discounts to book groups in the area. It donates books and gift certificates to local libraries and schools. It is an active member of the American Booksellers Association and supports national literary events, such as Banned Book Week and National Novel Writing Month.
Pendragon, while a stalwart, is also changing with the times. They have greened the water filtration system in their store and recycle all their packaging materials. They also buy and sell used books, which is, as they say, perhaps the greenest thing they do. They also sell all their books and products online, so you can browse their book collection from the comfort of your own home! To shop online at Pendragon Books and to learn more about their role as an independent bookstore in Oakland, check out their website.