Leigh’s Favorite Books is a favorite for local readers. Located on Sunnyvale’s Murphy Avenue, its shelves have been open since 2004.
“We fell in love with Murphy Street,” Leigh Odum said when asked about the location. “It was very charming.”
The Sunnyvale store has shown impressive resilience in overcoming the rise of big box bookstores and the pandemic.
Friendliness and good service is one quality which has helped it weather the storm of the recent pandemic.
“We switched over during the pandemic,” explained Odum. “We were able to offer curbside service. When the pandemic first happened, we put up an online ordering system, and customers could search for inventory on our website.
“We actually offered free delivery,” continued Odum. “We delivered books to customers in Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. Eventually, we were allowed to offer curbside pickup and delivery. And of course, eventually, we were able to let customers into the store.”
Ultimately, the pandemic did little to permanently change Leigh’s Favorite Books store services.
In contrast to a massive retailer like Amazon, there are other advantages to shopping for books locally.
“I think what makes a bookstore such a unique place is that it develops a culture of books that customers like,” explained Odum. “Online sales don’t get that feedback. With a physical bookstore, we’re constantly chatting with our regulars and listening to what they enjoyed and didn’t enjoy.”
“There are a lot of books that get released that get a lot of press, but I think a bookstore can curate some of those and pick out true gems,” Odum said. “At the same time, we try to recognize that everybody likes different things.”
“We try to cover areas of interest that really represent our customers.”
The joy of discovery and contact with other humans – a practice forgotten by many since the lockdown – are two more advantages to buying in person.
“Buying something online is fine if you just need to buy something,” she stated. “But it eliminates the whole fun and entertainment of going into a shop and the chance to see something new, to actually buying it in person.”
“We have staff recommendations, and we have fun non-book items to browse through,” she added. “We know our customers quite well. So, we make recommendations that are really geared towards the people that shop at our stores.
“You also get the interaction with the staff,” Odum continued. “We all read quite a bit, so it’s a nice chance to chat with somebody about books and discover new authors and titles.”
One common disadvantage with brick-and-mortar bookstores is the limited selection of titles offered.
“We’re not a huge bookstore, so we can’t carry every book. But I think the point is to have books available for people to browse what interests them,” Odum explained. “Running a good bookstore also means keeping your shelves fresh with interesting books, and weeding off books that didn’t take off or didn’t sell that well.”
Ultimately, “the quality of a bookstore consists of the effort of hardworking staff and customers that support the business and give feedback about books.”
For currently trending literature, “one that we’ve really enjoyed and that customers really enjoyed is Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr,” Odum suggested.
Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles has also been loved by Sunnyvale customers.
“While we’re huge fans of the vast bookstores out there, there’s also something to be said for the neighborhood bookstore that you could walk into, or take a short drive to, and visit and browse comfortably, and pick out something that you didn’t know you were looking for,” Odum said. “That’s what we try to achieve.”