This is Voice of San Diego’s last week in Liberty Station. We’re moving our offices downtown and celebrating the transition by leading a walking tour of some of downtown and East Village’s arts destinations. Reserve your tickets today.


Justine Epstein and Greg Theilmann don’t flinch in the face of the inevitable question that friends, family members and just about anyone who knows they’re opening a bookstore in North Park ask; some version of, But why are you opening a brick-and-mortar bookstore now when everything’s gone digital?

“It does seem strange,” said Epstein. “There are a lot of options now, especially with consuming media in general.”

Epstein and Theilmann co-own Verbatim Books. The new bookstore, located on the corner of 30th Street and North Park Way, is stocked with mostly used books, plus a few new ones by San Diego authors. It’s set to officially open in mid-January.

Epstein worked at a used bookstore in Hillcrest for a decade before striking out on her own. She said the old shop where she worked made it through the economic slump and even saw business boom after 2013. She’s confident the used-bookstore formula is far from broken. If someone’s looking for a new book and knows the title, she said an e-reader is probably the best bet. But for people who only know they want to read something interesting – a book that’s stood the test of time – she said there’s no online replacement that can compare to walking up and down the aisles of a used bookstore and talking to the knowledgeable book nerds who staff the place.

“Kindle and Amazon, they’re really great if you know exactly what you want, but I find it difficult to browse or find something you might not have known you wanted,” she said. “And I think people are sick of buying something and not really having it, not being able to share it with other people and their friends, at least legally.”

The serendipity of discovery and the share-ability of physical books are two arguments Theilmann uses, too, when explaining the “Why now?” question. Plus, he said, there are all sorts of other reasons people are still buying books.

“Even if they’re doing something as pretentious as putting it on their shelves so people can see it,” he said. “Everyone does that.”

Epstein and Theilmann said they don’t expect the bookstore to last forever, but it feels right for right now.

“There are a lot of things [about a bookstore] that are appealing or even charming maybe,” Epstein said. “It is a bit old-fashioned in a lot of ways. I don’t think we expect to be in business for the next 50 years, but I think there is a niche market here, especially in North Park, and people like us have responded well to the idea of keeping that alive, at least for a little while longer.”

• The full conversation with the new bookstore owners dives into North Park gentrification, life-changing books and more. You can listen to the interview on the VOSD Podcast coming out Friday. Subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or stream it on our website on Friday.

You’re reading the Culture Report, Voice of San Diego’s weekly collection of the region’s cultural news.

Preserving East Village’s Stories

Thanks to Petco Park and state redevelopment funds, which have since been whisked away, no other San Diego neighborhood has gone through as many changes as quickly as San Diego’s East Village.

Jorge Moreno sees how the once heavily artsy, warehouse-laden neighborhood’s identity continues to rapidly transform. As someone who counts himself part of the East Village art scene in the ’90s, he wants to do what he can to help preserve some of its most important stories.

Moreno’s built a website, The East Village Project, and he’s been working to collect and preserve personal anecdotes, photos and other tidbits about the East Village from the ’80s and ’90s.

“The purpose of this project is to have an online record of an era that deeply touched everyone that had a part in the life and creation of one of San Diego’s iconic landmarks,” he wrote on the site. “If you lived, worked, created art or simply enjoyed the East Village, we invite you to send us your profile and become part of this online community.”

Photo by Kinsee Morlan
Photo by Kinsee Morlan

The site is still  a work in progress, but Moreno was given hundreds of photos taken by architect Wayne Buss, who rehabbed The Carnation building at 10th and J streets into the ReinCarnation Project, a live/work space for artists. Buss also made other large contributions to the East Village community before passing away in 2004.

Moreno is in the midst of scanning Buss’ images and uploading them to the site. He’s also been successful at getting artists like Mario Torero, whose “Eyes of Picasso” mural was painted on the ReinCarnation Project for a few years, to share personal stories about their East Village experience.

Back in 2011, VOSD’s former Culture Report maven, Kelly Bennett, wrote in depth about Buss’ ReinCarnation Project and Torero’s mural. She also wrote about the arts space in the building, formerly housed by now-defunct Sushi Contemporary Performance and Visual Arts, and Buss’ lasting legacy of inking a deal with San Diego’s then-redevelopment agency, Centre City Development Corp., that said the space must be rented to an arts group for less-than-market-rate rents through 2031.

Aside from a few one-night rentals, that space, by the way, has remained empty since Sushi shut down in 2011. I plan on talking to the real estate company that owns the space about why that is. If you have any insight, shoot me an email.

The Port’s New Public Art and Other San Diego Arts and Culture News

• The Marriott Marquis San Diego Marina’s $200 million redevelopment project will include three new pieces of public art, compliments of the Port of San Diego’s percent-for-art program. (press release)

Photo courtesy of the Port of San Diego
Photo courtesy of the Port of San Diego

• CityBeat’s Seth Combs asked, “In 16 words or less, what can arts patrons do to better support local arts in the new year?” Folks from San Diego’s arts community (me included) answered and the paper’s art director made the words look graphical and purty.

• University of San Diego’s art galleries and the art and artifacts  in its collection are a hidden gem. (U-T)

The old Lei Lounge in University Heights is now Madison, a restaurant San Diego Magazine’s Troy Johnson says is designed to evoke Victorian-era storefronts.

• Famed artist Ellsworth Kelly passed away on Dec. 27. The Reader reminds San Diegans of his tumultuous ties to our city.

• Over two dozen locals shared their thoughts about how to make San Diego better or more interesting. (San Diego Magazine)

• Madison Gallery moved to a new location just a few blocks away from its old location in La Jolla. (Facebook)

• The U-T collected New Year’s resolutions from local artists and other movers and shakers working in classical music, pop music, visual arts and theater.

This year’s Coachella headliners have been announced. (Pitchfork)

• Will craft beer drinkers embrace craft rice wine? The owners behind a new sake brewery opening in San Diego in April hope so. (U-T)

• San Diego’s first new brewery of 2016 is Bitter Brothers Brewing Company. Eater San Diego’s got the scoop.

Get Cultured: Things to Do in San Diego This Week

The San Diego Symphony kicks off its Upright & Grand Piano Festival this week. I dug a bit more into the new festival in a past Culture Report.

• UC San Diego’s ArtPower kicks off 2016 with a series of short animated films with live music by electro-acoustic project Mal’Akh Ensemble.

• The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library has two experimental, interactive art exhibitions opening this week. Aren Skalman and Margaret Noble will show new work in the La Jolla institution’s two galleries.

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

• “American Idol” is holding auditions in San Diego next Tuesday.

• The next Friday Night Liberty event happening this week includes a free talk by artist Smadar Samson, creator of new public artwork, “ICE.”

•  See the final performance of the San Diego Museum of Art’s yearlong  Art of Music Concert Series at 7 p.m. Thursday.

• The Central Library Concert Series continues Sunday with The Hausmann Quartet.

•  Choral ensemble SACRA/PROFANA is the featured guest at Art of Élan’s “Concentric Circles” concert happening at The San Diego Museum of Art at 7 p.m. next Tuesday.

• Mainly Mozart is kicking off its annual Spotlight Series Saturday. The series continues through May 1.

• Escondido’s municipal gallery is opening a furniture show this week. You can also see furniture by SDSU students at a show opening at Art Produce gallery in North Park. That show opens Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.

• Carlsbad kicks off its Foreign Film Fridays series this week.

• See a collection of vintage X-ray photographs by Dain L Tasker at Joseph Bellows Gallery in La Jolla.

At 11 a.m. Friday, San Diego photographer Tim Mantoani will talk about the stories behind his photos of photographers holding their famous photos that’s currently showing at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

• See works on wood by James E. Watts, Andrew Alcasid and Erica Putis at Basic Urban Kitchen + Bar Tuesday night.

• Museum workers are meeting at Panama 66 in Balboa Park Wednesday to talk shop.

• San Diego choreographer Michael Mizerany presents a new cabaret at Diversionary Theatre Jan. 7 through Jan. 10.

• Friday evening, Sparks Gallery will host local artists painting live in the gallery.

• There’s an arts industry mixer happening this week.

• Barrio Logan’s newest gallery is hosting a closing reception for its first-ever show.

Artist Victor Villa’s got a solo show opening at Thumbprint Gallery this week.

• There’s a roller derby-inspired art show opening at Iron Fist Brewing in Barrio Logan.

• Don’t let SPF15’s vague and enigmatic art show announcements scare you. The pop-up gallery’s shows are interesting. There’s one happening this week.

• The film “It’s Gonna Blow!!! – San Diego’s Music Underground 1986-1996″ is screening at the Central Library next Monday.

• Get your custom-made postcard here.

• R.B. Stevenson Gallery in La Jolla is opening a new show this week.

California Lawyers for the Arts are coming to town to host a workshop for local artists and creative types.

• Artist Kaori Fukuyama has a show opening up at the Pacific Beach public library this week.

Prison chef Louise Mathews will be in Lemon Grove this week talking about her cookbook.

Author Chris Bohjalian will be at Warwicks in La Jolla at 7:30 p.m. Monday to talk about his newest book.

Kids Corner

• Nonprofit Traveling Stories holds a free story time for kids at Waypoint Public in North Park the first Tuesday of every month from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

• The annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration & Sportsfest is a free family event happening Saturday.

• The city of Poway is hosting its annual Winter Festival on Friday.

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She also managed VOSD’s podcasts and covered...

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