A family owned bookstore in San Diego’s La Jolla village billed as the oldest of its kind in the U.S. came close to calling it quits this year. Like every good story, though, a group of supporters rallied to save it.
Warwick’s – located at 7812 Girard Ave. – has been around since 1896 and calls itself “the oldest continuously family owned and operated bookstore in the United States.”
This year, it’s celebrating its 125th anniversary, but owner Nancy Warwick said it could have been its last.
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“We thought we were about to sign a great lease, and, instead, we were told that the building was being sold for cash in 30 days,” Warwick explained.
Warwick’s landlord of about 80-100 years had decided to sell the building, but some quick thinking and some savvy customers came to the rescue.
The owners of the building had an offer from someone willing to pay $8.6 million. Warwick’s had about 10 days to figure out what to do.
Investors Jack McGrory and Steve Avoyer decided to match that offer. They were helped along by other community members who also wanted to invest in Warwick’s.
“We decided to make an offer to the sellers, and we got a bank loan within about 48 hours,” McGrory told NBC 7. “And about 30 community leaders stepped up and invested in the project.”
“We were not saving their business – their business was fine – but we did want to save their place here in La Jolla,” Avoyer explained.
McGrory said Warwick’s is a neighborhood staple and a place close to his heart.
“It’s a great bookstore," McGrory said. "The oldest family owned in America and the employees are fantastic. My wife and I shop here a lot and get a lot of books here, a lot of gifts. It’s a really important asset in the community and in the city.”
McGrory said he got a call from his good friend Avoyer about meeting with Warwick to work out their investor deal. No one wanted to see the iconic bookstore go.
“I received so many nice emails from different investors about how important it is for them that Warwick’s stay here,” McGrory added. “So, I feel honored; I feel humbled.”
Warwick said she has regulars who visit her bookstore every day with their families, pets and friends.
“It was hard to imagine it being elsewhere,” Warwick told NBC 7.
Warwick’s survived the 2008 recession. It has managed to stay afloat amid increased competition from online booksellers. It has survived the coronavirus pandemic.
And now, this.
“Warwick’s is going to remain in La Jolla for a long, long time now,” Avoyer said. “We’re pretty proud of the effort.”
“I think it just says a lot about the community and the city,” McGrory said, “that people are willing to get together and help other people and make a successful business even better. Keeping it local.”
The History of Warwick's
Nancy Warwick’s great grandfather William T. Warwick founded the bookstore.
It has stayed in the family for 125 years.
William T. Warwick worked for seven decades as a bookseller, getting his start in Iowa. In 1896, he bought his own bookstore in Mankato, Minnesota, naming it Warwick’s. It stayed there until 1916, when he moved his family and Warwick’s to Waterloo, Iowa.
Meanwhile, over in La Jolla in San Diego County, Redding’s Bookstore was founded in 1902, operated by E.L. Redding and his wife, Genevieve. The bookstore moved around to a few different locations in La Jolla before landing on Girard Avenue around 1921.
According to the Warwick’s website where you can read the full history of the bookstore, E.L. Redding died in 1934 and Genevieve Redding continued to run Redding’s Bookstore. In 1939, William T. Warwick – who had a sister living in La Jolla – bought Redding’s and renamed it Warwick’s.
More changes followed for Warwick’s over the decades and second- and third-generation members of the family took over. Since 2001, it has been owned by the fourth generation of the Warwick family, sisters Nancy and Cathy Warwick.
“I’m thrilled,” Nancy Warwick told NBC 7, grateful that her bookstore gets to stay put on Girard Avenue. “I feel so indebted to the community and the vision of the people who invested in this store.”
Warwick plans on celebrating the store’s 125th anniversary throughout the rest of 2021. Check the bookstore’s website for updates on what’s happening there and when.