It’s safe to say that D.G. Wills Books is truly one-of-a-kind, and in a progressively impersonal, digital society, Dennis Wills’ focus on personalization and the aesthetics of text is refreshing. His roots in La Jolla add to the little store’s charm – he began advertising with the La Jolla Blue Book in 1979! Wills understands what it means to build a business from the ground up, which is exactly what he did in 1979 on La Jolla Boulevard.
How Did D.G. Wills Get Started?
With just a hammer, a saw, some friends, and a bit of lumber, he began crafting his own bookshelves from scratch and stocking the shop with books he’d uncovered at neighborhood garage and estate sales. D.G. Wills quickly became a peaceful refuge for book lovers, intellectuals, and the regular local who was simply looking for a quiet place to read for a while. What began as a collector’s dream eventually became the upstairs art studio of Francoise Gilot, Pablo Picasso’s lover and mother of his two children.
Wills’ early association with brilliant minds like Gilot was simply a foreshadowing of things to come; since then, literary celebrities such as Gore Vidal, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Oliver Stone, Norman Mailer, and the great Allen Ginsberg have given talks at the store.
By 1991, his collection had outgrown the smaller space and he moved the shop to its present-day location on Girard Avenue, where he and two friends began an intensive remodel. Keeping with the wood theme of his bookshelves, he casted the floor from spruce beams and the ceiling from beautiful pieces of redwood. The smell of musky lumber still resides in the peaceful corners of the store, and is a welcome scent from the hustle and bustle of everyday life just outside its doors.
What Does D.G. Wills Stock?
Wills prides himself on carrying the classics; in his words, books “that have passed the test of time.” His dedication to knowledge has drawn scholars, literary critics, students, and professors from universities across the country. With authors like Plato, Shakespeare, Darwin, and the Bronte sisters, Wills is confident of both his unique niche in the book world and the place he maintains in the hearts of his clientele – the old, antique books you find in his shop won’t be found in big-box, corporate stores. Wills says that there is something about the “aesthetic of real books…being able to savor them, study them,” that keeps the passion for what he does alive.
Letters to the Stars
Wills is also known for his endearingly persuasive writing skills. His number of poetry and literary readings exceeds that of much larger bookstores, largely due in part to his personal and thoughtful touch. He researches the author’s writings and where they may be speaking in San Diego, contacts them directly through email or regular snail mail (he usually asks their editor or publisher which style he or she prefers), and has been known to even send gifts – he sent a dozen roses and a handwritten letter to Maureen Dowd, and just a few weeks later, she was speaking to a large crowd in his store.
D.G. Wills Books is located at 7461 Girard Avenue in La Jolla and is open from 10am – 7pm.
[First photo courtesy of www.bobvickrey.net; letter courtesy of sdcitybeat.com]
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