A beautifully designed and community-focused book shop, The Book Jewel, has opened in Westchester’s Triangle district.
By Maureen Kingsley
The Book Jewel's interior
Every city, town, and village needs a cultural center. A community is strengthened by a place or space designed to enrich, educate, and delight its visitors and invite them to gather and exchange ideas. Such a place can be an art or history museum, a performing-arts venue, a public library, or—as in the city of Westchester, just north of El Segundo—an independent bookstore.
The Book Jewel, Westchester’s new book shop and cultural hotspot, is located in the Westchester Triangle Commercial Historic District, which is bordered by Manchester Avenue, Truxton Avenue, La Tijera Boulevard, and Sepulveda Eastway—with 87th Street running straight through, forming a triangle in the southern portion. Karen Dial, The Book Jewel’s owner, returned to her hometown of Westchester to manage commercial real-estate business Drollinger Properties after raising her family in Montana, and as the head of Drollinger, Karen asked herself, “What do we need here in Westchester? What type of business would really bring something special to the community?” She quickly realized that her hometown lacked an independent bookstore, and she decided to change that.
When the historic Karl’s Toys building became available in the Triangle, Karen knew she had found the perfect building for her shop. She had fond childhood memories of the toy store and knew she could bring the building back to life after decades of neglect.
With the building secured, Karen brought on Sean Moor, owner of Gatsby Books in Long Beach, to help her realize her dream of transforming the space and creating an independent bookstore that would be welcoming to all. “A bookstore needs to be uniquely suited to its community,” Sean says of his approach. “We knew Westchester needed a hangout, a place with energy and an artsy feel. We brought on a design group and completely restored the space from the original post-and-beam ceiling to the custom mosaic tile floor. Putting this shop together was a snap and a joy.” The Book Jewel opened to the public on August 29th 2020.
On the Shelves
Sean curates a mix of mostly new and some used books for The Book Jewel. “We put interesting and diverse titles on our shelves,” he says. Unlike huge, corporate, online booksellers, “there are no algorithms for our book selections,” he explains. Sean prefers to carefully consider and personally select what is sold, including titles by local authors. The Book Jewel’s large cookbook section is a point of pride for Sean, as are the shop’s art books, which are “flying off the shelves,” he adds cheerfully.
Not much of a reader? Not a problem. Whimsical, unique and locally sourced gifts are available at The Book Jewel as well. “We’ve sold a ton of jigsaw puzzles during COVID,” Sean shares. “We also sell fun socks from a brand that donates to good causes, and we’ve got Jellycat super-plush stuffed animals from London.
“Our Apothenne candles and hand sanitizer are made by a local creative,” he continues, “and we encourage local makers to contact us about selling their items here.”
In the Space
While the book and gift collections at The Book Jewel are impressive, the live, in-person events held at the shop are perhaps its most exciting feature. Sean and Karen are both driven to make their shop a safe community hangout and gathering spot, within its walls and just outside of them. “More than anything else,” Sean says, “we want The Book Jewel to be the heart of our community. That’s why we put on so many cool events and get-togethers at our shop. It’s all about bringing people together. We host book clubs, author events, poetry readings, live music and dance performances along with special monthly gatherings, such as our ‘Alphabet Soup’ LGBTQ+ teen group that meets indoors on the big leather couches.”
Later this month, The Book Jewel will celebrate its one-year anniversary with a series of events beginning the 29th and running through September 5, including a day-long celebration on September 4. Karen and Sean urge readers to check the shop's website for announcements. The pair is also eager to partner with local schools and organizations, including public and private grade schools and nearby colleges and universities, for field trips and workshops at the shop.
The Purr-Fect Resident
No description of The Book Jewel would be complete without a mention of its furry “ambassador, team leader, and mascot,” as Sean identifies her: Paiges the bookshop cat. “We found this little lost kitten and brought her in,” he explains, and she now freely roams the shop as if she owns the place, spreading cuteness and joy as she goes.
6259 W. 87th St. Los Angeles, CA 90045
This story appears in the August 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.