Right off Canyon Crest, tucked away in a corner of a small shopping center, across from a bubbling water fountain and a series of lattice gazebos with greenery sprouting all over them sits Cellar Door Books. The placement is almost a little too picturesque — the greenery commingling with the gurgling of the waterfall across from it is almost too perfect for the cozy atmosphere of the bookstore. Cellar Door Books is by far the most charming place in Riverside. There is even a resident dog named Nymeria, after direwolves in HBO’s hit show “Game of Thrones.”
The bookstore is not exactly small — there is enough room for a round center table and a large table in the back which serves as a reading corner, but feels incredibly cozy. The books are lined up not just in book shelves, but in small thematic displays divided by genre: “Poetry,” “The Natural World,” “The Human Condition” and even “Best ‘Cellars.’” Currently, there are a series of horror and thriller books lined up along the windows, in expectation of readers looking for Halloween seasonal reading.
Part of the charm of Cellar Door Books is how personable and hospitable the entire environment is: The staff genuinely care about their customers. For example, during my countless hours browsing, the staff have engaged in conversation, offering me recommendations and some of their current favorites.
My own introduction to Cellar Door Books occurred by happenstance when the bookstore first opened four years ago. While a relatively new addition to the Riverside community, it has managed to make an immense impact in a short time span. Hosting a wide variety of book clubs, readings and various children’s events, Cellar Door Books is practically a community center by any standard.
Destenie Fafard, the first employee the store hired, explained how crucial the communal element is, “Community is something we really focus on and keep our eye toward.” The book clubs are open to anyone who wants to participate, and range from science fiction, to classic literature, to Spanish-language bookclubs.
Moreover, as an independent bookstore, Cellar Door Books has an immense amount of freedom toward their programming. In September, they hosted an event where Abby Hanlon, author of popular children’s novel, “The Dory Fantasmagory,” came down to Riverside and read for elementary school students at Alcott Elementary School.
And this is what makes Cellar Door Books such a wonderful institution: It brings together, individuals who still care about books, no matter how few they may seem. The entire enterprise is based around a shared nexus of care about things that matter — humor, ideas, the arts, the natural world.