Spending Small: Towne Center Books


Renna P

Towne Center Books has been a Pleasanton staple for 21 years now, opened by current owner Judy Wheeler in 2000.

After a year locked in our houses with little to do, many of us have found ourselves re-kindling our childhood loves of reading. The library was closed until recently, so many of us found ourselves needing new books around the house. Rather than order off Amazon Prime, the local bookstore Towne Center Books is happy to help with all your reading needs. 

Right off the bat, Towne Center Books has a small-town feel. The charming (and slightly dilapidated) sign out front is flanked by books that are on sale and a light-blue banner that encourages passersby to shop small. The moment you step in you are welcomed by the smell of brand-new books and the sound of classical music playing quietly over the speakers. The employees never fail to say “Welcome in!” and one can always expect great customer service–they are native Pleasantonians after all. 

Renna P

Soft-spoken Judy Wheeler has owned Towne Center Books for 21 years, and politely accepted my request to talk about the store. Wheeler had already been working in the sales aspect of the book industry before she owned Towne Center Books, and when asked why she decided to open the store she answered with a chuckle; “I thought Pleasanton needed a bookstore!”

Wheeler recalled her hometown in Indiana where–despite the small population of only 15,000 people–they had a library which was three stories tall. She believes that, when given independent time, younger generations rarely reach for books. 

“Once the independent reading starts and the other distractions begin it becomes more of an assignment than pleasure, which is sad,” said Wheeler

Our interview was then interrupted by the clacking toes of an old hound dog who had barked when I entered the shop. An employee had affectionately referred to him as their “greeter,” and praised him for his excellent welcoming-abilities. Now, however, he seemed more interested in Ms. Wheeler than me. 

“The most fun thing about having a bookstore is getting to talk to people about books, and we now can do that again which is exciting, but for a while during the height [of the pandemic] when we were totally closed everything was online and just a lot different,” said Wheeler

This is, in fact, very true. I recall numerous visits to Towne Center Books when what would normally be a quick (and boring) checkout became an insightful and entertaining conversation about the books I had selected. 

Renna P

At this point, I asked her my final question, “do you wish more AV students would shop local?” To this she let out her loudest laugh yet. “I wish more everybody would shop local!… it’s important where you put your money. You’re saying ‘this is where I want to be in the future,’ and so ya know if you’re not shopping local you’re saying ‘I don’t care if we have stores around me. They’re not necessary to me,’ and so I think it’s important for everyone to shop local to keep their money in the community.”