Celia Sack: Omnivore Books on Food:

October 14, 2011
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Celia Sack of Omnivore Books on Food. Photo by Stacy Ventura

Most people won't ask for an 1886 copy of The Grocer's Handbook, because most people have never heard of it. Not even Ruth Reichl. And that's why Celia Sack places prized possessions on the front shelves. "Bookstores often keep collector items out of reach," she says. "But I want people to grab them."

For most of her time in Noe, Sack was known as half of the duo who ran the Noe Valley Pet Company. But in 2008, her new incarnation, as owner of Omnivore Books, took shape. The transition from kitty chow to cookbooks was not completely random, however. Having previously worked as an antiquarian book specialist for a San Francisco auction house, Sack always wanted to match curious cooks with rare finds. She just wasn't sure how. As luck and economic tides would have it, though, the space next to the pet store opened for lease just around the time Sack met Don Lindgren, owner of Rabelais Books in Portland. "He knew how slightly older books, like first editions of Julia Child, could be considered collectible," she says. "And this, I thought, could be the thing to get people in the door."

Today, people not only walk inside, they wait in lines that stretch far down Church Street. Omnivore hosts readings and lectures multiple times a week and Sack is still stunned that her event with Ferran Adria sold out the Castro Theater, filling 1,400 seats in 72 hours. "Everyone was afraid that we couldn't compete with something like Amazon," she says, "but Noe Valley is loyal, fiercely so. And they made us successful." With constant press and local love, the store has become busier and chattier over the years. But Sack hopes nothing else changes. "I want authors to still come here and see the space," she says. And she hopes her corner shop remains a place where people can slowly peruse and touch titles they recognize--and, certainly, those that they do not.

Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton

 

Neighborhood Picks:

"We call Martha and Brothers Coffee our office," Sack says. "But I love to send people to Chloe's and Lovejoy's for a bite, especially if they are from out of town."

The Neighborhood Needs:

Sack wants a kitchen or DIY supply store, like Pot and Pantry, to open next door. "It would be so complementary," she says.

Hop on muni:

For pho, Celia hits Mai's Vietnamese Restaurant in the Richmond. But for after-work cocktails, she heads to Range. She recommends the Third Rail.

Illustration by Wendy MacNaughton

 

This content was published in the Fall 2011 issue of Edible San Francisco Magazine. © 2011-2012 Edible San Francisco.

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