Cellar Door Books is nestled in a quaint corner of Canyon Crest Towne Center. Its dense outer foliage and wooden walls evoke a Middle Earth vibe and aptly so; the store gets its name from J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Tolkien once identified “cellar door” as one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language in terms of euphony—the quality of beauty in sound. After chatting with bookstore owner Linda Nurick, I believe he was right. The independent bookstore is as lovely as its namesake, and the local community has welcomed it with grateful arms.

The store is packed with rustic charm and cozy seating, and its shelves hold novels ranging from historical fiction to essays by local authors. Several contemporary bestsellers caught my eye—“House of Leaves,” “Gone Girl” and “A Dance with Dragons”—as well as familiar names like Aldous Huxley and Stephen King. As Nurick and I sat at a heavy wooden table in a windowed corner, she shared one of her motivations for opening up a bookstore in Riverside, and it had to do with her career as a writing professor in the Inland Empire. She revealed that, “Kids aren’t reading and, honestly, I can do everything in my power to teach you to write, but if you don’t read, it’s close to impossible.”

Fortunately, the residents of Riverside were more than willing to give Cellar Door Books their undivided attention. Since the store opened this year on Oct. 27, the local public’s response has been overwhelmingly positive. “We opened with a lot of empty shelves, but it was because people kept saying, ‘oh, just open,’” Nurick told me with a laugh. “And people came in almost as if they were going to find a book they wanted to buy simply to support us. Having this bookstore has made me really appreciate our community in a huge way.”

That appreciation goes both ways. Cellar Door serves as the long-awaited water cooler for Riverside’s diverse literary crowd. Nurick notes that her customer base is intellectual, intriguing and interested in everything from classics to foreign language novels. “We started with the books that we thought were important, but I have been listening to people come in and say, ‘what about this book?’ And what ends up happening is that when people come in, we order whatever they want, but we order some more for the store. Now we’re getting this really rich diversity in our books and it’s coming from our community, because we have incredible customers and they have really interesting tastes.”

Bringing literature to a community is one thing, but succeeding as an independent bookseller is an entirely different game. Nurick recognizes the competition between local retailers and big-box names like Barnes & Noble and Amazon. “I actually don’t suggest to people that they do all of their book buying from me. Do some of it on Kindle, do some of it on Amazon, do some of it at B&N, do some of it with me. And if they do that, then local money goes back into local jobs.”

Nurick has plans to keep her customers coming back to Cellar Door through author events, book clubs, writing groups and workshops, but we agreed that one of the biggest elements of the store’s appeal is its sense of companionship and shared experience. “A bookstore kind of feeds something in people. It’s soul food, somehow, and people say, ‘I’m so glad you’re here’ with such sincerity when they walk in the store…I feel like I got to do something that I really loved, that’s really important to me, and the community really seems to have needed it and wanted it at the same time. How lucky am I?”

For information on upcoming events, follow Cellar Door Books on Facebook at http://facebook.com/cellardoorriv. The store’s hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and until 6 p.m. Sunday and Monday.