Timbre Books finds its place in the community

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Timbre Books owner Megan Murai said, “I’ve always loved books. I’ve always loved talking about and reading them. I love getting to share books that I like reading with other people. Opening a bookstore was the perfect way to continue doing that while also being in a world where I can hopefully make connections for writing and continue to write.” Photo by: Alejandro Hernandez

Alejandro Hernandez

Local independent bookstore provides curated book selections and more

On Oct. 17, 2020, the bookstore Timbre Books opened at 1924 E Main St. in Ventura. Six months prior (April 2020), future owners and married couple Megan and Kyle Murai had been at the neighboring coffee shop Singing Sun Coffee. They noticed a vacant property, which would later become Timbre Books. 

Megan Murai said, ¨We were like ´well we don’t even know what it takes to open a bookstore, but let´s do some research and see what it takes.´ We did a few months of research and then started inquiring about the space and what it would take to open the store. Then we just kind of went for it.¨

Megan Murai has a background in creative writing, with  a master of fine arts degree in the subject. She worked as an editing and social media freelancer prior to Timbre Books. She said, ¨I didn’t really love it that much. I had recently finished a master of fine arts in creative writing from Seattle Pacific University. I wanted to figure out a way to be in the book and literary world that didn´t necessarily require me to get something published immediately.¨

Megan and Kyle Murai started Timbre Books using private investments, personal investments, a loan and crowdfunding. Megan Murai said, “The start-up cost for a bookstore is not as much as it may be for some other businesses like restaurants or something like that.”

Cecilia Perez ´23 said, ¨I think [Timbre Books] makes a positive impact because since it’s so close to the school [Ventura High School]. If we need a book for class, we can easily go right there. That’s what I did when we had to read ´The Great Gatsby´ for AP Lang.¨ Photo by: Alejandro Hernandez

Megan Murai said, ¨I think it was a little hard for us [to open during the pandemic], but that’s kind of all we´ve known. We haven’t opened a business in another time, so it’s hard to know what it would have been like to open it at a different time. But I think we had some things going for us because of the pandemic, like the fact that people were reading a lot more because they didn’t necessarily have a ton of other things to do, and people recognized the need to support small businesses. I think that really helped us when we opened. It definitely had its challenges though. When we first opened, we weren’t able to have a full capacity of people in here and wearing masks and all that.¨

Ariana Goulette ‘23 said, “I first shopped there back in November. I think it’s a really cool business, the service is always wonderful and I love the book selection. Reading is important and can impact the Ventura High School community in a positive way. I shop at Timbre books because I love supporting small businesses, and I love the overall environment that the store has.”

Megan Murai said, ¨I do everything from buying the books [in stock] to selling them and marketing. I’m kind of the jack of all trades. We [Kyle and Megan Murai] just have one employee right now. We do a little bit of everything, but probably buying the books and choosing which ones I want to have in the store is the most important thing. We probably have between 4,000 to 5,000 titles.¨

Timbre Books orders book shipments directly from major publishers. These shipments are not always of the same book title, but titles from the same publisher. Megan Murai said, “The most common way to stock our shelves is directly through the publisher. We go through catalogs and catalogs of books that are available for us to buy and I narrow it down to ones that are good and worth the shelf space. There’s also a distributor that we go through sometimes but it’s generally directly through the publisher.”

Timbre is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quality given to a sound by its overtones: such as the resonance by which the ear recognizes and identifies a voiced speech sound.” Megan Murai said, “[Timbre is] a musical term. We like the idea of different books resonating differently with different people.”

Megan Murai said, “We chose our location because the space was about the right size for what we were looking for. We thought being next to the coffee shop would be a nice pairing so that people could stop in the shop to peruse the books after getting a coffee.”

Timbre Books owner Megan Murai said, “We carry a little bit of everything with an emphasis on fiction, classics, nonfiction and children’s books. We get a lot of students who have summer reading or assigned books buy [those books] from us. I sold a lot of copies of ‘Brave New World,’ ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and ‘Animal Farm.'” Photo by: Alejandro Hernandez

Timbre Books is an independent bookstore, meaning that it is independently owned rather than by a corporation or larger chain. Megan Murai said, “I’ve always been enamored by independent bookstores, especially the ways they are shaped by the communities around them. One of my favorite bookstores is Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, N.Y. I admire the way they promote diverse voices and engage in their community while offering an excellent selection of books. I wanted Timbre Books to have a similar feel and role in the community. I feel like we’ve filled a need here since we are the only independent bookstore [in Ventura] to sell new books.”

She said, “At an independent bookstore, you know that what you’re going to get there is reflective of the community that you’re in because it’s owned by people that live in that community and care about that community. Our books are highly curated specifically to things that I think are important or good to read. You don’t necessarily get that if you go to a bigger bookstore; they might have everything. Or maybe it’s more difficult to get a [book] recommendation. It’s also good because we give back to the community by providing a space for book groups or community events but also in the sense that the money that people spend here is going back directly into the community.”

Annabella Lehtonen ‘25 said, “I first shopped at Timbre Books in Oct. 2021. I really like this bookstore as a business and I think it is such a cute bookstore. I think that a lot of readers at VHS enjoy this store as well because it is a local shop to the school. I would recommend this to other people because it is very easy to find a good book there.”

Megan Murai said, “We hope to continue to grow and be shaped by the community that surrounds us. We want to offer more events like author readings, open mic readings, workshops, and book clubs. We also want to continue to seek out ways we can give back to our community through books.”