When Mr. Mopps’ Children’s Books opens this October, Berkeley, Calif., will have its first children’s bookstore and co-owners Devin McDonald and Jenny Stevenson will realize a longtime dream of having such a retail space – just four doors away from Mr. Mopps’ Toy Store, which the couple purchased in 2010.
An extensive remodeling of the nine-by-40-foot space is taking longer than expected and creating a bit of chaos for McDonald and Stevenson, who are running the toy store at the same time. “I’m more nervous about opening another business than I am about the remodel,” McDonald said, over the sounds of hammering and sawing in the background. Until he and Stevenson bought the toy store, which has been in business in Berkeley for more than 50 years, neither of them had any retail experience. “I was a nanny my entire adult life, for 15 years,” said McDonald. Other than the books he read as a child and to the children in his care during his previous career, McDonald’s knowledge of kids’ books is minimal; he is relying on sales reps to help him place the store’s opening orders and is also getting tips from members of the community, who have been stopping by to find out when the shop is opening.
Along with children's bestsellers, picture books, and YA fiction, McDonald, who is partial to nonfiction, will also carry a good selection of science and reference books, biographies, and history books "for all ages. We will also be pushing the envelope a bit as far as what is typically defined as a children’s book, with titles on art, nature, and maybe even cooking," he said. Mr. Mopps will also stock bookends, book-related plush toys, and kid-friendly music from around the world meant to appeal to the whole family.
Running Mr. Mopps’ toy store for the past two and a half years gave McDonald and Stevenson the confidence to try their hand at books. “We have a style of our own,” McDonald said, “and hope the bookstore will reflect that. This is all so new to us.” He and Stevenson haven’t visited indie bookstores in the surrounding East Bay area while designing the new Mr. Mopps’. “I don’t want to be influenced by what books they’re carrying because we want Mr. Mopps’ to be unique and have its own style,” said McDonald, who has been contacted by ABA and the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, and will likely become a member of both. “This is a labor of love for us, and the community is very excited. It’s great to have their support.”