In 1967, radio technician and Army veteran Richard Savoy debuted a collection of used books, comics, and old National Geographic magazines in a 750-square-foot space. It was an unusual niche that turned out to be just what the neighborhood wanted, and the original collection planted the seeds of a local literary institution that’s gone on to swallow neighboring storefronts and shoot off into a music, fiction, and DVD annex a few doors down. In 2009, Savoy sold the bookshop to three longtime employees who have put their own stamp on Green Apple Books with innovations such as selling e-books, hosting events, and adding energy-efficient lighting that shines brightest on the stuff you really want to read.
Over the years, the most important facet of the charmingly creaky-floored haven has remained the same: an abiding love for all things literary. You can read it between the lines of the handwritten "shelf-talkers"—small, colorful signs detailing the staff's personal recommendations. You can hear it when you speak to the friendly booksellers themselves—according to Frommer's, the store's "extended sections in psychology, cooking, art, and history; collection of modern first editions; and rare graphic comics are superseded only by the staff's superlative service." And you can feel it in the air as you climb the winding staircase to the second floor to explore tucked-away alcoves surrounded by original gaslight fixtures.
The store's carefully curated and ever-changing inventory ranges from categories such as poetry and philosophy to sports and children's books. The enormous selection and the staff’s astonishing command of it all have earned Green Apple numerous awards, including the title of Best Independent Bookstore in the San Francisco Bay Guardian's 2010 Readers Poll, and Best Overall Bookstore and Best Used Bookstore in 2011 and 2012. The owners spread the joy of reading beyond the shop’s overstuffed walls by partnering with worthy causes such as the Asia Foundation's Books for Asia program and Friends of the San Francisco Public Library.