In 2001, Steve Costa and Kate Levinson, a couple who’d recently moved to Point Reyes Station, decided to buy Point Reyes Books, even though they had no retail experience. Now, a decade and a half later, the torch has been passed to first-time retail-store-owners Stephen Sparks and Molly Parent. To add a degree of difficulty to the task of learning the ropes in their brand-new undertaking, Sparks and Parent got married a month beforehand. One could say that the move was the newlyweds’ destiny — they first met when both were working at San Francisco’s iconic Green Apple Books on Clement Street.
1. How did you find out the bookstore in Point Reyes Station was even available?
Stephen: They put a call out back in June. We knew Steve and Kate a little bit through the bookstore world — I’d worked at Green Apple Books for about nine years. We wrote in when everyone else wrote them these “letters of interest” in buying the store. We actually knew about a month or so before anyone one else which gave us extra time to write our letter, so it was an extra month of anxiety thinking, “We’ll never be able to do this.”
2. Where does your love of books stem from?
Molly: I’ve had a lifelong love of books and reading, and they’ve always been a part of me. I worked at Green Apple for three years and I thought, “This is my dream job and I’m going to have access to books all the time.”
Stephen: My parents fostered an early and abiding love of reading and then I sort of stumbled into bookselling when I was in college back east. When I moved to San Francisco I got a job at Green Apple my first day in the city.
3. What was the interest in wanting to take over and run a bookstore — haven’t bookstores fallen on hard times in the past decade or so?
Stephen: I think that’s the narrative that people hear and believe but that’s not the case. The original Green Apple on Clement Street will be 50 years old next year, and we actually expanded two years ago. I helped open our new store in the Inner Sunset, which is a 3,000-square-foot store and has been very successful. The American Booksellers Organization actually reports that bookstore openings are up around 20 percent.
4. Did you already have a connection to Point Reyes?
Molly: We have loved Point Reyes for a long time. Just outside the city, it’s always been a magical place that you can get to in just an afternoon. We’ve spent a lot of time hiking and camping out at Point Reyes. It’s had this kind of special pull for us for a long time. And part of that is that there was a great bookstore in town, which we’d visit every time we passed through Point Reyes Station. Stephen: We also always joke about how the best part of San Francisco is how easy it is to get outside San Francisco.
5. Where do you both come from, originally?
Molly: I lived in Massachusetts until just after high school and then my family moved across the country at that point. I went to college in San Diego and then found my way up here after that. Stephen: I’m from New Jersey. I don’t even have a good reason for moving out to the West Coast almost 10 years ago now. But here we are. Making the commitment to buy the Point Reyes store is also part of our journey to establish firmer roots.
6. What do your families think of this move?
Molly: They’re very excited. They accepted long ago that this is our passion and that’s what we were going to do. My parents are already joking, I think, about retiring to Point Reyes. We’ll see.
7. Where do you live now?
Molly: We currently live in the city, in the Inner Sunset. As we transition into running the store, we’ll be looking to move to Marin to be a little closer. The long-term dream, of course, is to eventually be out in West Marin, in the community.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s January 2017 print edition under the headline: “7 Questions for Molly Parent and Stephen Sparks.“
In addition to contributing to Marin Magazine, Marc is the Senior Manager for Naming and Verbal Identity at Landor, an international branding company. He has created many memorable brand names during his career, including BlackBerry, Swiffer, and Dasani while working for Lexicon Branding in Sausalito and has also written several made-for-TV movies for the Hallmark Channel. Marc hosts the Comedy Podcast Podcast, Succotash, which features interviews and clips from other comedy podcasts. When he isn’t busy doing all of those things, he draws an award-winning editorial cartoon for the Half Moon Bay Review weekly newspaper.