The Best Bookstore in Palm Springs, which also happens to be the only bookstore in Palm Springs, opens this week. The bricks-and-mortar shop marks a shift from the virtual to the tangible realm for Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Paul Bradley Carr and Sarah Lacy, who snagged the domain name for their humbly titled project.

Longtime tech industry insiders—Carr wrote for the Guardian and edited for TechCrunch, and Lacy was a columnist for Business Week—the two quit journalism to launch media startups; Lacy remains CEO of the business-education site ChairmanMe. During their Bay Area years, Carr found Palm Springs a quiet place to write: “I’d sit in the ridiculous heat and work, because there were no distractions,” he said. Just before the pandemic, he and Lacy bought a house and moved there with their two young daughters.

Palm Springs was ideal except for one thing. “We spent a few weeks assuming we hadn't found [the local bookstore] yet,” said Carr. “People told us, ‘No, there isn't one. You have to go to the Barnes & Noble in Palm Desert, half an hour away.’” He and Lacy “started saying, ‘This is ridiculous! Somebody who knows about publishing, who loves books, needs to open a bookshop in Palm Springs.’ Then you have that moment where you go, ‘That's us, isn't it? We need to do that.’”

Carr sought advice from Scott Seeley and Drew Cohen of The Writer’s Block independent bookstore in Las Vegas, whom he met while working on Tony Hsieh’s revitalization effort, Downtown Project. “They have shared everything,” Carr said. “I literally worked there for almost a week,” learning the day-to-day book trade. He and Lacy also connected with Speakeasy Books, “a fully fledged incredible tiny bookshop” that opened in February in the mountain town of Idyllwild, Calif., about an hour from Palm Springs. They hope the Best Bookstore can partner with Speakeasy on events.

For two techies alert to the next big thing, launching a bookstore provides a new source of exhilaration. “We've been doing internet startups for so long, so what's luxurious about this bookstore is that it's the antithesis of a Silicon Valley startup,” said Lacy. “It’s an old-fashioned, mainstream-USA, family-owned small business.” Quaint notions aside, they hotly debated software options before choosing Bookmanager. “You have no idea how fraught the idea of point-of-sale has been,” Lacy said.

Old habits die hard, and the couple has ideas to disrupt indie bookselling in the virtual space. “Given our Silicon Valley background, we have ambitions beyond building a great store for our local community,” Carr said. “We want to explore ways in which the atmosphere and passion of independent bookselling can be reflected online too. To help us in that direction, we have added Otis and Elizabeth Chandler, founders of Goodreads, to our board of advisors.”

For the moment, the Best Bookstore in Palm Springs exists primarily in the material world, with 1,025 square feet of space and upwards of 7,000 titles in its inventory. The downtown store, which occupies the former site of Interstellar Comics, is a short walk from the Palm Springs Art Museum and major hotels, so Carr and Lacy anticipate local interest as well as tourist traffic. “We want to make sure it's representative of what's important to Palm Springs, so obviously we're going to have an incredible LGBTQ section and a really good Spanish-language section,” said Lacy. “I'm excited to highlight Native American authors and history of Native tribes in Southern California.”

Carr wants to draw customers in with books on Palm Springs architecture and its annual tennis tournament. “I've spent months trying to get the inventory right,” he said, citing help from fellow booksellers and gracious reps. “It has been a massive curation job. We just took the family to Disneyland, and I'm literally in the line of the runaway mine-train ride, adding and removing things from orders.”

“I'm 50 years older now than I was when I started this,” Carr joked. “The idea of opening our own store went quickly from ‘we should do that one day’ to ‘we should do that now,’ and the rest is fun and chaos and a dream come true.”

The Best Bookstore in Palm Springs will be operational in time for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and its first holiday season.