.Tanya Sedneva Goes Beyond Text at New Los Gatos Bookstore

British author Neil Gaiman once wrote: “What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”

This month, Los Gatos got itself a new bookstore with the grand opening of Beyond Text, a project of business owner Tanya Sedneva and her family.

Its name emphasizes how spending time with a physical book can feel luxurious.

“There can be more to books than just the text—such as illustrations,” the 38-year-old Los Gatos resident said in an afternoon chat at the location. “And there is the physical feeling, like, the luxury of being able to slow down and see, and feel, a physical book.”

Friends of Los Gatos Library, a second-hand bookstore, had served as the town’s only bookstore since the closure of Village House of Books on Village Lane several years ago. Before that, Borders Books operated a store locally. That store closed in 2011.

The Los Gatos opening is part of a national trend, as independent book retailers have sprouted in small towns and big cities. Young people have been discovering a love of books through digital discussion groups discussions (with the help of influencers on #BookTok on the social media app TikTok), and according to the Associated Press, there are now 2,185 bookstores signed up with the American Booksellers Association.

Beyond Text stocks bestsellers, coffee-table books and esoteric illustrated encyclopedias. Sedneva’s approach to curation is to promote the useful as well as the eclectic. Her store, previously home to Tsume Nail Salon, aims to bring the joy of serendipitous browsing to the community.

The encyclopedias, for example, tackle historical attitudes towards the concept of magic, artistic depictions of devils across cultures and historical sexual mores.

“I read it myself,” Sedneva said of the book on the sex lives of people in the Victorian era. “It’s not juicy, but actually quite funny.”

She has books on the mechanics of language, physics and biology textbooks for middle schoolers, required-reading classics for high-schoolers and graphic novels for adults.

Sedneva is looking forward to hosting book club meets, organizing painting parties and facilitating gatherings of people playing the popular game Mafia. She says it’s all part of her desire to help foster community based around the written word.

A 2020 Harvard Business School study found that the recent bookshop resurgence was being driven by local owners who “promoted the idea of consumers supporting their local communities by shopping at neighborhood businesses.” These businesses won customers back from Amazon and big box players “by stressing a strong connection to local community values,” it noted.

In the Los Gatos context, as Sedneva convenes readers through the careful curation of Beyond Text’s catalog, it represents the realization of her childhood dream.

“I used to work as a software project manager, but I’ve been impacted by the layoffs less than a year ago,” she said. “Since then, I was struggling with what I should do next.”

A discussion with her therapist spurred her current project. As a kid, Sedneva spent time in the library with old books, wishing she could have access to new ones. She dreamed of opening her own bookstore, she said.

Her therapist asked her why she wasn’t pursuing that desire.

“I was mad, because I’m not a kid,” Sedneva said, laughing at the memory. “Because I don’t know if anybody would buy books these days.”

Doubts raced through her mind. But the reaction of her son, 10-year-old Konstantin, both challenged and inspired Sedneva. Konstantin declared one day that he knew how to open a bookstore. He punched a search query into Google and showed her a website titled “How to open a bookstore.”

“It was one of those moments when I realized, ‘There is help,’” Sedneva said. “There are people around who might help you—you just have to ask them. That was the moment when it became more realistic for me. I started to think, ‘Okay, why not? Let’s just check. Let’s try to figure out budget. Let’s do this step by step.’”

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