Book Smart

Beers finds key to keeping readers coming back

By Jessica Laskey
February 2024

As a kid, I spent hours at Beers Books. I made a beeline for animal books. Mom perused the art section. Dad skimmed remainders on a sidewalk sale cart.

I recently found a Beers Books bookmark while going through some boxes. Instantly, I floated back to those book-filled days.

My experience is not unique. Beers Books has been a beacon for book lovers for nearly 90 years.

Early days are murky, but the shop began around 1936 when Nellie Beer worked as a clerk for L.H. Mytinger Books at 1125 Eighth St. At some point the shop became Beers Books. A legacy was born.

Beers has occupied five locations under four ownerships. After Nellie Beer came Frank Azevedo, who owned the store from 1941 to 1967. He sold to Harvey Shank, a retired Aerojet engineer responsible for the store’s metaphysical section.

Shank sold to current owners Jim and Carlin Naify in 1985. The Naifys bought the building at 14th and J streets, and with it, the store.

“It’s unusual for a small business to last that long,” Carlin says. “Jim and I consider the store a civic amenity. We’re its stewards.”

As good stewards for 39 years, the Naifys kept the shop open through several moves, including 14th and J, 15th and L, Ninth and S, and, as of last August, 712 R St.

When longtime manager Bill Senecal retired, the Naifys turned to family to continue the legacy. As a youngster, son Andrew Naify worked summers at Beers. After graduation with a history degree from Lewis & Clark College, he worked at Powell’s Books in Portland for five years. He’s managed Beers for the past decade.

“People are so loyal to the historic Beers, the only thing I really did was try to standardize the labeling for ease of browsing,” Andrew says. “It obviously had a solid foundation for a 90-year-old bookstore, so there was no need to reinvent the wheel.”

Not reinvent, but modernize. Under Andrew, inventory was digitized, social media engagement expanded. With digitalization, social engagement and online sales, Andrew accomplished three key goals.

He also nudged Beers into antiquarian and rare books. He makes scouting missions and examines book boxes brought in by customers.

“We’ve bought and sold books from the 1500s, the 1600s. It’s incredibly fascinating to see the old inscriptions of previous owners. It definitely taps into my appreciation for history,” he says.

Since the store reopened on R Street, Andrew hosts more events. A front section accommodates gatherings of around 50 guests.

He wants to improve the kids’ section to make the store “more inviting for families to post up and hang out and look at books.”

He says, “We’re hoping to anchor this section of R Street. We kind of feel like we’re on the frontier of the R Street corridor. Folks are still finding us for the first time, even those who have been in Sacramento their whole lives. We want to make our presence felt.”

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Jessica Laskey can be reached at us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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