By Blake Ashley Frino-Gerl

Linna Thomas grew up in Washington and earned her teaching degree, but once she and her friend, Janet Brown, found out that other friends were taking a boat trip down the coast, they followed them to Morro Bay and decided to stay. 

The two women had dreamed of owning a bookstore and so with just “$1,600, no experience, no business plan and no clue about the realities of running a business, we found a small funky beach bungalow with lots of windows for light near the bay and opened Coalesce on July 22, 1973,” Thomas remembers.

Their initial inventory, mainly purchased from a Los Angeles warehouse that was small enough to fit in the trunk of their car, was also supplemented from the ladies’ personal libraries. 

“From the beginning, we’ve offered new and used books,” Thomas adds. The business grew and the business moved to the current location on Main Street in 1981.

When asking about the meaning behind the business’ name, Thomas says that “the only other name we considered was Crossroads, but we wanted a name that captured the serendipity one can feel in finding community and in finding the perfect book.” It is the action of coming together to form one whole. 

“We always envisioned Coalesce not just as a bookstore, but as a place to be comfortable and to find community,” Thomas says. 

A couple employees working with Thomas in the bookstore have been there decades: Cheri (47 years) and Joanne (35 years). There are also additional employees servicing the chapel and garden. 

The chapel, built in 1973, was designed by the Cal Poly Architecture Department. It was to be used to serve beer and pizza, “by a motley group of locals headed by contractor Ron Ketch,” Thomas adds. Throughout the years, the chapel has hosted weddings, memorials, baptisms, concerts, author events, poetry readings, classes, workshops, yoga, meditation, metaphysical readings, meditation groups, political groups, fundraisers, exercise classes, Tai Chi, Santa’s Workshop, and story telling. 

Coalesce Press, which takes submissions only by invitation, is putting out its sixth publication entitled “Releasing the Light,” a non-fiction book by Carol Alma McPhee.

Thomas fondly says that “working with Coalesce has never grown old for me.” For her, “books are endlessly interesting, as are the people that come and go through our doors.” The half-century business has kept its customers coming, creating a sense of family. 

“On any given day, we interact with our old timers and with tourists in for the first time,” Thomas said. “Both bring energy and are important to the spirit of Coalesce … a sense of community and a sense of discovery.” 

Happy 50 years, Coalesce Bookstore.