Part house, part maze, all bookstore. Ojai's famous Bart's Books started out in 1964 as a collection of books by owner Richard Bartinsdale that got so overwhelming he had to construct bookshelves on the sidewalk to accommodate his entire collection. Passersby could take a book and leave coins in the provided coffee cans as payment.
Today Bart's Books is the largest outdoor bookstore in the U.S. and still operates in a similar fashion. During store hours shoppers can cruise through the maze-like aisles, that weave in and out of the house; I have never been able to use the phrase, "I could get lost in here for hours" so literally. When finished searching through the endless selection of new and used books, the store operates like any other: you can buy your books at the cash register (and get a free bookmark!). But like in the 60s, night-owls and insomniacs can still peruse the books on the outdoor bookshelves and slide the appropriate amount of money through the slot in the door. Bart's invented the tradition of selling books via the honor system -- and there is a special place in heaven for them because of it.
By AFAR Traveler
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