ENCINITAS — With a beard, tattoos and what some people have called a “biker” appearance, Greg Mollin is the first to admit he doesn’t look like your typical book aficionado. But the Huntington Beach resident loves books so much he commutes more than an hour each way to Encinitas for work as the new owner of Artifact Books, formerly Book Tales.
“I’m a lifetime bibliophile and also a fiction writer and owning a bookstore has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember,” Mollin said. “I actually had a little trouble learning to read in the beginning. Once I did learn, I remember feeling like the whole world had opened up for me. I read everything I could get my hands on and have never stopped.”
Mollin said as a young kid he lived at the library, both the one at school and the public library near his home. He said he would check out as many books as possible and have a hard time giving them up when they were due. He says he still has the majority of the books from his childhood, everything from his original “Chronicles of Narnia” paperbacks to an old hardcover copy of “In The Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak.
“A children’s book that could probably never be published today due to nudity in the illustrations, though my sisters and I always thought it was hilarious when we were young,” he said of the Sendak book.
For the entirety of his adult life, Mollin, 48, said he’s been a private book collector and seller as a hobby, while working as a graphic designer in the sign business. About five years ago, he started seriously looking into what it would take to open a bookstore or take over an existing one.
He said he looked up and down the coast for the right store. What made him interested in Book Tales specifically was the location and the lineage.
“Looking for bookstore locations, you rarely find one with such incredible exposure and history,” he said. “There are some great stores, but the lack of exposure and foot traffic made them a lot less appealing. The fact that this location has existed as nothing other than a bookstore for something like 50 years is really incredible.”
He added, “I really enjoy talking to folks that remember the store being here in their youth and then returning years later to still see it here.”
Mollin is the third owner of the bookstore. He took it over from Patricia McFarland, who’d owned it for the past 18 years. He decided to rename it Artifact Books, saying it just seemed like the right name for a store that deals heavily in older and rare collectible books.
Mollin said aside from the name change, he’s also trying to bring in more interesting titles and collectible books.
“While I’ll always carry an abundance of popular paperback fiction and best-selling titles, I’m also seeking out a lot of classics and rare stuff for a more eclectic selection,” he said. “I get a kick out of curating the collection and hand-selling books to folks that might be off of their reading radar.”
He said he’s also planning to have a regular schedule of events there, like author signings, local writer groups, and readings.
On Saturday, Nov. 2, Mollin is having a grand reopening of Artifact Books, complete with book sales, refreshments and appetizers from Eve restaurant in the evening, and a reading by award-winning author Richard Lange, who’s a friend of his.
“I always loved going to stores for events and hearing authors speak about their books,” Mollin said. “I want Artifact Books to be a spot where everyone from best-selling authors to up and comers have a place to showcase their books and where book lovers can come to hang out and celebrate books and book culture.”
Mollin said he feels lucky to be doing what he loves in such a fantastic city and location. He added that he and his wife Jennifer plan on moving to Encinitas as soon as they can.
He said he hopes Artifact Books continues to thrive and becomes a fun destination for book people.
“One of my great joys is talking to customers and exchanging recommendations on books and authors,” said Mollin, who cites “Blood Meridian” by Cormac McCarthy as one of his favorite books, and David Joy and William Gibson as two of his favorite authors. “I love to be able to put a favorite book into someone’s hand and then have them come back later to tell me about it.”