We spend a week each year on Balboa Island in Newport Beach and over the years we’ve developed a few traditions–reading or sleeping until noon, eating a Balboa Bar (a vanilla ice cream bar which is dipped in chocolate, then dipped in a topping, I always choose peanuts) every night, visiting the arcade every afternoon (I take a book and give the kids $5 each a day to play video games), and dropping by Martha’s Bookstore.
Balboa Island has one commercial street, Marine Ave. The first year we visited the island, I walked up and down the street and thought I could never live here, there isn’t a bookstore, but not 10 steps later I tripped over Martha’s. I was an immediate fan when I walked in with a horde of kids and the clerk asked the adults “would you like a glass of chardoney?” This is a store deserving repeat visits.
Martha’s Bookstore is set back from the sidewalk almost behind Sugar ‘n Spice (where the original Balboa Bar is sold) allowing me to examine the window display every day as I gobble down my ice cream. The store is small, so as you enter through an outdoor corridor it is lined with bookshelves and tables full of books that are moved in and out every day.
Several years ago, my children discovered Peter and the Starchatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson on the young adult bookshelf, and we have been fans of the series every since. There is a good bestsellers bookshelf, one side for fiction and the other for non-fiction, plus a few bookshelves for paperbacks. The children’s section is in an adjacent room. Clearly, the store isn’t making the rent solely on books because more than a third of the space is dedicated to cards, Beanie Babies and banners (many encouraging the UCLA/USC rivalry that is played out all over the island). Martha’s Bookstore is just right for discovering the perfect selection for an island get away.