After two years of doing business in pop-ups and online sales, Elk Grove bookseller A Seat at the Table Books now has a brick-and-mortar store, with books, coffee and an actual table dedicated to fostering community.
Their staff will host a grand opening event on Dec. 11 with music and dance performances, book readings and talks.
“I don’t fully get it yet myself,” co-owner Emily Autenrieth said of having a physical space, adding that, after months focusing on the details of the store, “we’re trying to kind of breathe and take it in when we can, but it’s really wonderful.”
The festivities will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they feature 13 special guests, chosen with an emphasis on diversity. Raffles of items from A Seat at the Table and other local businesses will take place between presentations.
Autenrieth will kick off the event alongside Jamaar Anderson, who owns Savvy House Coffee Bar on Bruceville Road. Attractions include a story time with Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen and another story time with drag queen Hellen Heels.
Authors who will attend include Alex Grevious, 13, who has written a book about living with autism; and fantasy writers Andrea Stewart and Jason Denzel. Music will include a violin performance by local middle schooler Yusef Elsalaymeh.
Motivational speaker Keerthi Karnati will close out the day with a presentation on “giving everyone a seat at the table.”
Along with its bookstore, A Seat at the Table offers several amenities, such as a co-working space, a play area and a cafe. Autenrieth considers coffee and books a potent combination.
“We really believe in the power of books to help us learn about each other, to open our minds to other experiences,” Autenrieth told the Citizen. “And coffee as a symbol of community connection is so powerful because it brings people together.”
A live-edge table, showing the natural contours of the wood it was carved from, is stationed in the coffee shop.
The table “is specifically for meeting other people, for talking to strangers, and we have some conversation prompts on that table,” Autenrieth said.
She recognized the “really incredible staff” that the store has hired.
“There’s so many hiring challenges right now,” Autenrieth said. “I thought it would be difficult to find people, but the staff we have is equally diverse to the community we’re trying to serve.”
The store’s lead barista, Maxx, will speak at the grand opening about Indigenous heritage.
Autenrieth pointed out that customers can have A Seat at the Table order books for them, either through its website or in person.
“I think that’s kind of a hard connection for people to make sometimes, that their local bookstore is also their online bookstore,” Autenrieth said.
Their personalized touch make bookstores a special resource for a community, she noted, citing the impact of the closure of Borders bookstore a decade ago.
“One sign of how badly Elk Grove needed a bookstore is, literally every single person who lived here in 2011 brings up when Borders closed because there is nothing like a bookstore cafe to be that community hub,” Autenrieth said. “Bookstores provide a really unique benefit to the community that you cannot get from shopping online, you cannot get from an algorithm.”
To RSVP for the grand opening, visit seatbooksgrandopening.eventbrite.com. For more information about A Seat at the Table Books, visit its website, www.AseatAtTheTableBooks.org. The bookstore is open Mondays from 7 a.m. to noon, and Tuesdays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is located at 9257 Laguna Springs Drive.