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The Book Jewel is already buzzing with potential to be a community landmark

By Shanee Edwards | Photos by Luis Chavez 

Remember bookstores? No, I definitely don’t mean virtual bookstores like Amazon.com. I mean the brick and mortar places where a bibliophile or bookworm could get lost in the labyrinthine aisles only to discover the magical worlds that exist uniquely within the pages of books. Those physical places are few and far between these days, but if you’re feeling nostalgic for the smell of paper, staff book suggestions and inviting window displays, I have wonderful news: an independent bookstore called The Book Jewel is now open in Westchester.

The grand opening took place on Saturday, Aug. 29, the same day as Independent Bookstore Day and, despite the pandemic, The Book Jewel was buzzing with excitement.

Seated in one of the store’s comfy, overstuffed leather chairs and despite wearing a facemask, it was easy to tell that The Book Jewel co-owner, Karen Dial, was grinning like the Cheshire Cat as she said, “This is a dream come true for me!” Dial owns the store with her brother, Jim Drollinger, both of Drollinger Properties.

“The community has been waiting,” said Dial, “They’ve been watching for about four years while the construction was taking place. So every time someone drove by, they were like, ‘When is that going to open?’ So there’s been a lot of interesting conversations. But we’ve also been couped up in our homes for so many months now. It’s been a delight to hear people say, as they walk through the door, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re finally out of the house! We’ve been reading but we’re sick of ordering on Amazon. We want a real bookstore!’”

Beyond just wanting to create a local, independent bookstore, Dial also wanted a way to honor her mother, who was both an author and book lover. “My mom,” said Dial, “was an avid reader. When I was feeling that Westchester had a huge void by not having a bookstore here, I thought, ‘I really want to open a bookstore and name it after my mom.’ Her name is Jewel. That’s why it’s called The Book Jewel.”

The Book Jewel manager, Sean Moor, shares Dial’s enthusiasm for the new venture. “I’ve spent my whole life in bookstores – new bookstores, used bookstores and hybrids. This is the most beautiful store I’ve been in. I’m really, really happy with the whole team we have here. Mountains of books are arriving every day,” Moor said.

For the past 10 years, Moor has owned and operated Gatsby Books in Long Beach, one of the last thriving independent book stores in the Los Angeles area.

“Gatsby Books is a self-sufficient store now, so I’m full-time here with The Book Jewel, basically building the store of Karen’s dreams and fortunately, our dreams are the same,” said Moor.

Part of their dream is for the bookstore to have a life beyond just selling books. “We want it to be a place for the community but also a destination place,” Moor said.

The stylish, modern space, accented with crimson fan-like lighting fixtures, is designed to magically transform into an event space. The bookcases are on wheels and can be rolled against the walls to create room for guests at a book signing or poetry reading. Both Dial and Moor are looking forward to the day when they can hold an in-person book club.

“Our goal is to find a way to have Oprah in our store,” Moor said, adding, “If we could have Oprah come to this store, we’d pinch ourselves until we are purple.”

Adjacent to the actual bookstore will be Tomat, a restaurant with its own event space and rooftop deck and garden. Dial’s daughter Natalie and her fiancé Harry Posner will be helming the restaurant, where all kinds of possibilities exist for chef’s table events and cooking demos. Look for Tomat in 2021.

At a time when a lot of retail businesses are closing due to the pandemic, Moor isn’t worried about the success of The Book Jewel. “I think it’s already working. In a tricky time like this, it’s really important to remain optimistic, believe in the community, believe in independent businesses to bring people together to bring money and jobs to Westchester,” he said.

Just then, a masked-man gently interrupted our interview to say, “Congratulations! You are a beautiful addition to our block.” Both Moor and Dial blushed. Clearly, Westchester is full of community pride and the man’s enthusiasm bodes well for the bookstore’s future.

The Book Jewel is located at 6259 W. 87th Street in Westchester, tucked behind the IHOP on Sepulveda Boulvard, in the heart of Westchester’s flourishing Triangle Shopping District. Visit thebookjewel.com to learn more.