For nearly a decade, Barbara Gelink’s life has been about one thing: buying, selling and trading cookbooks.

On Christmas Eve, all that will change. After spending nearly 10 years offering recipes from a storefront on Adams Avenue, Gelink is shutting her doors.

The path from cookbook baron to retirement began about six months ago, when Gelink began to have pains in her body. First her hand. Then her knees. A holistic medicine specialist helped her get through it, but it was the first sign that she might have to close shop.

She also was getting much more of her business from an eBay store than from foot traffic. She’s a “power seller” on eBay, and sells about 10 items a day on the site.

But the real impetus for closing came from a new companion. Widowed in 2004, Gelink only recently began seeing a man who encouraged her to find more time to be social.

“I wanna be free. I’m trapped,” she said. “Not a bad thing. Listen, I love books. It’s like home. I could come here and work 14 hours and not be upset, but after 10 years … He helped me realize ‘you’re in a cocoon, you’re not enjoying life.’”

So, she’s liquidating her shop, selling books for 70 percent off.

Already, she’s cleared a lot of space. The children’s cookbook section in the back is empty and she’s working on selling off the bookcases in that room.

But she still has a collection of about 9,000 cookbooks to get rid of. She figures she has two weeks to sell them before she’ll have to sell them off to a wholesaler for pennies on the dollar.

On Thursday, she’s starting a new sales incentive. Buy a minimum of 6 books and they’re $1.50 per book. Buy 10 and you can get each for $1.

Come Christmas Day, she’ll be free.

“This is a new life for me,” she says. “Probably the last.”

She hopes to join a gym, and enroll in some Zumba classes. “Slow, I wanna start slow,” she says.

She wants to join a local town council that meets at the local church.

More than anything, she wants so make friends and spend time with her new companion.

She’ll still sell cookbooks on eBay — only the premium ones — but will go into “semi-retirement.” The storefront will be a thing of the past.

“I’ll miss the little chatty customers that come in,” she says. “Some of I’m all miss a lot. Others, not at all.”

A hat tip to our former web editor Rachel Williams-Pangrac, who tipped me off to this story. Today, I’m the People’s Photographer and you are my boss. I’m taking assignments throughout the day from readers and photographing the most interesting ones.

I’m a photojournalist at You can contact me directly at or 619.550.5664.

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Sam Hodgson is a freelance photojournalist and contributor to Voice of San Diego. You can contact him at and check out his work...

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