Shown entries: 1-10
"Bookseller shares love of literature in unique way"
Written by Rachel Stine
"The Coast News" June 11, 2013
CARLSBAD — Sitting in his little bungalow house off of Jefferson Street, Sean Christopher began to describe one of the many reasons he is passionate about books.
“A book can be old and yellow and crispy, and that story —”
Christopher couldn’t finish his sentence before his 4-year-old Jack interjected — “Dad, watch me get the golden egg,” he said, wanting to show off his aptitude for playing Angry Birds on his dad’s iPhone.
“I am, Buddy,” Christopher said before resuming his sentence. “That story is the same story as the first edition that is worth thousands of dollars.”
At that point, Christopher leaned over and began tickling Jack into submission, the two laughing as they rolled around on the couch.
Holding two conversations at once is one of several talents Christopher has developed while raising Jack as a single father.
For a time, caring for his son was his sole occupation. His writing and bookstore took a backseat when Jack was an infant.
But now that Jack is older and attending the Montessori preschool down the street regularly, Christopher is able to devote more time to his love of literature, and has started to share that love with the community.
Nestled in a parking lot between the Taco Bell and Garden State Bagels along Carlsbad Village Drive is a one-room cabin that houses Christopher’s countless books.
Aside from his freelance fiction writing, he mainly collects and preserves independently published and older books. He sells his books online under the name “L.H.O.O.Q Books;” a reference to French-American artist Marcel Duchamp’s small portrait of the Mona Lisa with a mustache and goatee.
“I thought if a cook needs a restaurant, a writer needs a bookstore,” he said of starting his bookselling business.
But with L.H.O.O.Q.’s book cabin stacked, boxed and shelved with books to the brim, Christopher built shelves outside of his cabin for books that he shares for free.
He said that with more than enough books to feed his business, “I wanted to bring an offering (to the community).”
The shelves line one entire side of the L.H.O.O.Q. cabin and are filled 24-hours a day with books, written by a range of authors from Nora Roberts to Fyodor Dostoyevsky to George W. Bush.
Christopher described having a “Noah’s Ark” approach to his outdoor book share, establishing it with the notion of, “You build it, they will come.”
The one-story, black cabin has the books on its main side; a graffiti mural covers another wall, and the rest are shielded by Christopher’s backyard fences. It’s tucked away from the main street and lacks an official address, but visitors are greeted with nuzzles from Zee Zoo the dog, and meows from Henry the cat.
A steady trickle of passersby and those purposefully seeking out the shelves stream up to the library shelves each day.
Christopher recently added outdoor lighting when he noticed people stopping by with flashlights to gather books after dark.
He said the library promotes a “take, trade, or donate” approach to his book share, preferring people to take a book and share it with others rather that bring it back.
In that way, he hopes that his personal goal to “preserve the written word and present it as art” will thrive from his backyard and into the community where he grew up.
Christopher was raised on Garfield Street, several blocks away in the Village from where he lives now.
After high school he moved to San Francisco and attended school, earning degrees in literature. He developed a career of freelance writing and art that allowed him to travel around the world.
He said that if he got lonely during his travels, he would find comfort at the nearest bookstore.
“I really like the idea that you can get lost (in a book), and you can get to know (the characters) and they become your family,” he said.
Christopher said that while thriving off of his independent artist lifestyle, he never imagined returning to Carlsbad. But family matters brought him back to his beachside hometown about six years ago.
He remained after his son was born, and his mom lends a hand by babysitting on occasion since Jack’s mom has been out of the picture for most of his life.
“In my (high school) yearbook, I would be the person most likely to leave and never come back. And here I am with my bookstore and a kid,” he said.
“I used to be able to stay up all night and write, work 70 hours a week. But, you can’t do that with a 4-year-old,” he said.
Christopher, 38, said it could be tough writing around Jack’s schedule, working before his son wakes and after he falls asleep. But despite small frustrations, like being unable to find good Thai soup in the area, he said is not disappointed with his life as a family man.
He marvels at Jack’s appreciation of the deeper themes in his favorite book, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.
A smile broke out on his bearded face when he described his son’s bedtime routine: One Shel Silverstein book, another about Thomas the Train Engine, and Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”— because the rhythm of the narrative helps Jack fall asleep, Christopher explained.
“My ideal is to have the bookstore and then write and to have (Jack) run around and meet people,” he said.
Christopher said that once he makes some electrical renovations he may open up L.H.O.O.Q Books as a part-time store and tutoring center, but he has not established a definite time frame to do so.
More importantly, Christopher wants Jack to look back when he is older and be proud of him.
“I want him to see that I did what I love and I didn’t regret it.”
Visit L.H.O.O.Q Book’s Facebook page and Twitter feed for more information.
"Unique bookstore forced to close temporarily"
By Ellen Wright
"The Coast News" August 6, 2015
CARLSBAD — Along a non-descript portion of Carlsbad Village Boulevard, behind a Taco Bell and a KFC, stands a few bookshelves.
All day, people stream in and out to browsing the shelves for books that are available through a barter and donation program.
Founder of Lhooq Books/Exrealism Sean Christopher encourages community participation and hopes the shelves will create a community gathering space.
“I’ve always wanted to keep it small and have it be everyone’s little secret,” Christopher said.
Until last week, he also operated a bookstore with hand curated vintage books for sale.
The city has temporarily closed the store until the zoning and permitting are sorted out.
The building in which he operates the bookstore, at 755 ½ Carlsbad Village Drive, was built in 1941, which predates the city’s incorporation in 1952.
The city has no paperwork proving what the building’s initial and past uses were so Christopher is hoping to find concrete evidence of what the building served as.
He has heard from residents in the community that it has been a paint store, a distribution center for the New York Times and most recently, an upholstery store.
Christopher spent two years refurbishing the building and upcycling cabinetry and maple wood to become bookshelves.
The closure came after a complaint to the city about signage on the front.
Christopher said there is no official signage, although the western facing wall in the alley has a mural by artist and professional skater Kris Markovich.
The bookstore is unable to get a temporary permit while the city sorts it out because of the complaint.
The closure has put a damper on Christopher’s plans for the space.
He envisions Lhooq Books/Exrealism as a community meeting space that offers learning workshops and possibly hosting an artist residency program.
Workshops have already started at the bookstore. Earlier this year Christopher hosted a paint workshop where the canvas was a blank skateboard deck. For $40, participants were taught a painting lesson and got to keep the deck.
“That’s cheaper than babysitting,” Christopher said.
Workshops are open to all ages and since he has his teaching credentials, he hopes to also invite local schools for some classes.
The bookstore is both a nonprofit and a for-profit store. The shelves on the outside of the shop are full of books that can be taken in return for a donation or for a book trade.
It’s self-policed, although Christopher said it takes a lot of work to maintain.
Carlsbad resident Dawn Henry said she stops by once every couple of months for the booktrade.
“I would be sad to see it go,” she said.
Without the for-profit bookstore, the book trade wouldn’t be feasible, said Christopher.
He’s now working to find concrete proof in the form of photographs to show what the space was used for in the past, since the city doesn’t have any records.
He said the traffic he gets from visitors using the outdoor library has driven out loiterers that formerly made the location a regular stop on the Carlsbad Police Department’s patrol.
For updates on the store’s permitting, visit facebook.com/LHOOQ.EXREALISM.
"LHOOQ/EXREALISM VINTAGE BOOKSTORE"
"Hidden San Diego" September, 2015
Several years ago after attending an art show in Carlsbad, we were heading home when an incredibly interesting building caught my eye. “Turn around!” The place was not open when we stopped by but I was fascinated with the bookshelves which lined the foundation of the store, filled with books that were free to the community. What a cool, selfless idea, I thought. We need more people on this tip.
Fast-forward to mid 2015 when I get a message from the owner, Sean Christopher, that the city is trying to shut them down! The nerve! Here’s a unique concept that is giving back to the community and the city is looking for any microscopic issue to cause problems for them. This is a current issue and with the help of the people, hopefully they will get to stay around!
So what is LHOOQ/Exrealism? Lhooq (pronounced “look”) is a vintage bookstore and venue for artists of all mediums. They have dreams and aspirations to grow much bigger so let’s help them out! According to Wikipedia, L.H.O.O.Q. is a work of art by French artist and writer, Marcel Duchamp. First conceived in 1919, the work is one of what Duchamp referred to as readymades, or more specifically an assisted ready-made. The readymade involves taking mundane, often utilitarian objects not generally considered to be art and transforming them, by adding to them, changing them, or (as in the case of his most famous work Fountain) simply renaming them and placing them in a gallery setting. Take the Mona Lisa, whom he is famously known for adding a mustache to.
So how does this relate to the bookstore? Because Christopher has adopted the philosophy of change. Taking an old, decrepit building which had become an eyesore and turning it into something fresh and innovative. The outside of his bookstore is kind of like the Little Free Libraries but taken up 100 notches. The inside has such a lovely vintage feel with the smell of old books which has become such a rarity in the tech world we now live in.
UPDATE: It had been a couple years since I had visited Lhooq/Exrealism. Last time I was here, the owner was battling the City of Carlsbad to keep his spot in business. I am thrilled to learn that not only did he win the battle, but the shop has also had a lovely makeover! They now offer a variety of delicious coffee drinks while you scour your reading options. Give this spot a visit if you haven’t already. It’s definitely one of the most unique bookstores that San Diego has to offer!
"BOOK NOOKS Check out Carlsbad's community libraries, which make reading fun for everyone"
Written by Wendy Hinman
"Carlsbad Magazine" March/April, 2017
LHOOQ BOOKS (pronounced "look"). Lhooq, a rare bookstore and underground art venue tucked away on Carlsbad Village Drive next to Garden State Bagel, has a 24/7 "honor system" community library/bookstore outside. The proprietor, Sean Christopher, is also a writer.
Good writers surround themselves with good books and so what was Christopher's writing studio became a bookstore. Writers also find it difficult to toss away books so the outside of the bookstore became a lending library for Lhoog's surplus.
"Interview with Sean Christopher (Unabridged)"
"World Spark" Interviews
I had the pleasure of talking to Sean Christopher, owner of Lhooq Books and The Exrealism Project. Lhooq Books, located in Carlsbad California, is a distinct bookstore with art plastered everywhere, and the unexpected inside. This bookstore is one of my favorite spots to stop by when I walk around Carlsbad, as it is its own little world, and Christopher answered all my questions.
Part of your store leads out to an enclosed area with a big screen, chairs. I understand that occasionally you host movie nights in this spot that can also be used for readings and lectures–why did you decide to utilize your space in this way when you can instead use it to hold more books?
"Lhooqing for shelter"
Written by Ken Leighton
"San Diego Reader" October 17, 2019
Sean Christopher says his Lhooq (pronounced “look”) Books in Carlsbad is one of only about seven independent book stores left in the county, now that market forces have felled such longtime booksellers as Adams Avenue Books, 5th Avenue Books, and 50,000 Books. He says he has over 50,000 new and used books for sale, including "the final hand-typed draft of the Pulp Fiction screenplay with Quentin Tarantino's handwritten notes, a very rare leatherette of Edgar Allen Poe, a hardcover of Catcher in the Rye, and an original printing of Abby Hoffman's Steal This Book." Hidden San Diego called Lhoog Books, a funky shop housed in a small barn built in 1941, "a hidden gem, the best bookstore in all of San Diego by far." (Hidden indeed: it's quite a contrast to the massive new multi-story development currently enveloping downtown Carlsbad. )
The 45-year-old Christopher -- writer, former college adjunct professor, and K-12 teacher -- transformed his bookstore and its adjoining patio into a cultural showcase, a place that regularly hosts lectures, readings, political symposiums, and live music events. "I've had a Cambridge professor give a live lecture on our screen, beamed in from Cambridge," he recalls.
Now, however, Christopher says Lhooq Books is being abruptly killed off, with no notice, no explanation and, in his mind, an outrageous show of disloyalty and unkindness. "I was never once late in my rent," says Christopher, a fourth-generation Carlsbad local who opened the store 12 years ago. "I put myself through grad school as a finish carpenter, so I was able to completely fix this place up. It was nearly condemned when I got here. The roof was leaking and caving in.
But when it came to words on the page, Christopher discovered his most recent written lease had expired in January. "I asked the property manager where my 2019 and beyond lease was, and they told me it was on the way. There had been delays like this before, because of property manager changes or whatever. There was no reason for concern at the time." Christopher was secure in his belief that the good will he'd built up over the years with Siegel would prevent any surprises. He was wrong. On September 16, he was served with a notice to vacate both the house and the bookstore in 60 days. “I told them immediately there was no possible way, because I already had tickets to be in Europe, dealing with my wife who was getting processed for her naturalization, and if I didn't go then, it could jeopardize years of process. They told me they would send me legal documents and that if I signed them I could stay until January. But even with that, I could not find a new place for the store and a new house in such a short time. By the way, I never got those legal documents."
Christopher says he knew the increasing upscaling of Carlsbad's Village area would likely cost him his home and his store eventually. "My goal was to recoup my expenses, build my brand, and relocate in two to five years if I had to. Now they are telling me I have to move my home and my business of over a decade in a month." The problem, says Christopher, is that Siegel, now in his nineties, has passed control of his properties over to his son Ben Siegel (who happens to be the city manager of San Juan Capistrano). Christopher says he has never met the son, and what's more, he was told by the property manger never to speak to him directly. (Attempts to speak with Ben Siegel for this article were not successful. )
"I've been going in there since it opened," says Janelle Cannon, Carlsbad author/illustrator of children's picture books. "He went through all the struggles with the city of Carlsbad to get all his permits... His store is so unusual compared to the gentrification of the rest of the Village, which is becoming so formulaic. It reminds me of a store you might discover walking the streets of San Franc francisco It's so free form and full of character. I can never walk in there without buying something Cannon says the Evrbottle shop and Village village Rock Shop are some of the only other remaining stores that retain the spirit of old Carlsbad. that bookstore gods away, I won't have much of a reason to go into downtown Carlsbad."
"I'm a lover of books," says Ginny Unanue, who was raised in Carlsbad and taught school there for 38 years. (Christopher was one of her students. "Any bookstore is a big positive to a city. It's very important. I think this is unfair. This young man paid for all the upgrades, he's been a great tenant. I think they ought to give him at least six months." Justin Jachura, who owns Senior Grubby's, a restaurant four blocks west of Lhooq Books on Carlsbad Village Drive, agrees. "It's a sad situation, and it's not even clear why he's being evicted. He's made a name for himself, and he provides a service to a lot of people. I think it would be a courtesy to him to allow him time to find a new place to move his business."
Christopher has launched a GoFundMe campaign to help negotiate possible legal action and/or help cover relocation costs. "I would hate to liquidate my business for pennies on the dollar. You can only carry 30 books at a time, and with the rare books you have to use white gloves and wrap them. It's a time-consuming process. You can't just put a first edition first printing of Kerouac's On The Road in a box for movers."
"Carlsbad book store owner handed sudden eviction notice"
By Jared Aarons
TV news on "abc10 News San Diego" October, 2019
CARLSBAD, Calif. (KGTV) — Lhooq Books is the kind of place where easy reads mix with just about everything else.
He acknowledges the owner has the right to end the lease, but 60 days to move his home and his business is overwhelming. When he asked the owner for an extension, he got an even surprising response.
"End of chapter looms for a Carlsbad icon"
Served with an eviction notice, the owner of the funky arts hub known as Lhooq Books is fighting back
Written by Pam Kragen
"Los Angeles Times" October 14, 2019
CARLSBAD — Over the last decade, Carlsbad Village has undergone a gradual gentrification, but little pockets of its former, funky self remain.
His landlord, San Juan Capistrano City Manager Ben Siegel, declined to comment on why the eviction was served or what plans he has for the property, saying only in an email: "Unfortunately, I cannot comment on the matter due to pending litigation."
Back in the 1990s, MuehIhausen was in a band that used the old garage as a place to practice. The building and adjoining house were in derelict condition and the neighborhood was known as unsafe. The band moved out when someone used an ax to break down the wall and steal its instruments.
"A Last or a New Look at Lhooq?"
Written by Wendy Hinman
"Carlsbad Magazine" March/April, 2020
LHOOQ BOOKS (pronounced "look") is a corporeal gathering site for ethereal discoveries. Reading books takes us time traveling in ways the digital experience cannot. When we sink into a book we're made a soul connection to a protagonist, a storyteller, another world. Walk into Lhooq and the residue of those worlds comes back in the presence of many books. Conversations are born. What was at first felt alone now has a table to share.
Just off Elm Avenue - now called Carlsbad Village Drive - Lhooq sprang from the vision of fourth-generation Carlsbadian Sean Christopher. Like book reading, his idea was tended alone until he hand-built his desire. "I built a place I wanted to go to," Christopher says of what has become a treasured cultural hub for locals and visitors, nerds and skaters, artists and scientists, millennials and boomers.
Lhooq sells books, of course. Christopher is a frank and amerible curator of books deep and rare. That's inside. Outside, there is a co-op library free to mental wanderers. Lhooq also sells coffee, as any shop worth its salt would. On the back patio Christopher has created a portal of art and space to tend to the collective mind.
"From the table in the corner they could see a world reborn and they rose with voices ringing," the librettist of Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" mused. He may have been describing the 'intellectual salon," as Christopher calls it, of Lhooq - a wonder-filled juxtaposition of patrons.
Flogging Molly's Matt Hensley brought his friend, David Lally, for an evening of Irish folk songs and the next morning Brittany McGregor was there singing Parisian street songs. A Cambridge physics professor gave a lecture one day and on another there was a movie night.
But this community hub of the arts is in trouble. Christopher was promised a long-term lease, but that gentleman's agreement was broken. Some dodgy development will tear down Lhooq's building so Christopher is in the market for a new Village space. "I want to stay in Carlsbad," he says.
What was born at Lhooq raised the cultural status of Carlsbad. In this winter of discontent Lhooq is in need of culture capitalists. Christopher's hope is that the move will raise the status higher. He is shopping for a place to rebuild and turn Lhooq into a public franchise - much like the Green Bay Packers - with local investors. He also wants to expand the cultural space with a larger salon, a museum of Carlsbad cultural history and an art gallery. We want to keep singing "Here they talked of revolution, here it was they lit the flame, here they sang about tomorrow and tomorrow never came." Let's help Lhooq build tomorrow and tend culture well."
*note: there is a typo in the article, Christian instead of Christopher, in the current text it's fixed.
"Carlsbad's Lhooq Books – the after story"
By Ken Leighton
"San Diego Reader" March 31, 2020
In September Lhooq Books was told it had two months to pack up and get out of of Carlsbad’s downtown Village area.
The Lhooq Books story does have a happy ending. But it’s not due to the help founder Sean Christopher says he was promised from the city of Carlsbad following the outpouring of support from longtime locals who praised the funky outpost .
Billed as Oregon's oldest city, Astoria is 1,000 miles away in northwest Oregon. A non-profit there has welcomed Lhooq Books with an expansive venue and a promise of support. Christopher was born and raised in Carlsbad. He says his hometown city government never came through with the love he says he was led to believe he would receive that would help keep his book store in Carlsbad.
“They would have events for everything from the League of Women Voters to punk shows,” says Lhooq supporter Mike Maras about Lhooq’s outdoor patio that has been used for book signings, public meetings and live music. “This is just another small, funky shop that is being priced out of Carlsbad and is being forced to pull up stakes and move out of town. It seems like everything in Carlsbad is now being tailored to the tourists.”
Carlsbad’s population is 115,000. That makes it eleven times larger than Astoria. Yet through a random meeting, Christopher says he was able to make a connection with the Oregon city of less than 10,000 population.
Christopher challenged his two-month eviction and then was given until the end of May. This week he flew up to Astoria for the second time to go over the next chapter for Lhooq Books.
“I was looking for a town that had the same smalltime vibe I knew growing up in Carlsbad,” says Christopher. “Astoria is a town known for being a historical town with an open mind about promoting culture. There are just some towns like Austin, Athens [Georgia], and Lawrence [Kansas] that have a reputation for proudly mixing the cultural with the mainstream.”
He says the city of Astoria bought an abandoned 44,000-square foot armory built in the 1940s. It was in turn purchased by a non-profit called Friends of Astoria Armory for $250,000.
“For being such a big space, it was not run-down. It’s right in the center of town so the city was able to protect it when it was closed. The wiring was still intact and there wasn’t a lot of graffiti. There is one large room, offices, a kitchen, and a separate basement space that would be a good performance space. There is the space that used to be an old propeller museum that was used the film The Goonies.”
Christopher says he is in ongoing talks with the Astoria non-profit about which space will be used for what purpose. He says the new Lhooq Books will now be allowed to thrive alongside a “higher-end gallery,” a video studio and a mixed-use performance area which will help cover expenses. “It’s not a co-op. That triggers the image of old school hippie stuff. It will be a forward-thinking operation where arts and culture will be in the forefront while still helping young artists or any artists get a start.”
Christopher says that when Lhooq Books was told its days were over at Carlsbad Village Drive, the public reaction and words of positive support from local officials gave him hope that Lhooq Books could stay in Carlsbad. Christopher points out that a public/private incentive is what drove the city of Oceanside and local arts supporters to launch the Oceanside Museum of Arts. And that's what he thought could happen in Carlsbad.
“Councilmember Cori Schumacher told me she would do everything in her power to try and help us,” is how Christopher describes his meetings last year with the first-term councilmember. “She set up meetings with the economic development department.” Christopher says his discussion that department’s management analyst Christie Marcella was promising. Christopher says she told him the city would help him keep Lhooq alive.
But Christopher says things changed, when Marcella left the city and was replaced by a new management analyst, Joe Stewart, who oversaw a city hall meeting on February 4.
Christopher explained how he had been in communication with the owners of 395 Carlsbad Village Drive, Bernard and Marina Goldstein, about a house that has been vacant for 10 years. “Every time I brought up what we could do to the building, even if it was cosmetic, they said it would take a year or two to get permits approved. They said all the permits would cost in the high six-figures…The whole meeting seemed antagonistic."
That house and its adjacent property (immediately east of Senor Grubby’s restaurant) is listed for sale at $4.7 million. Christopher says it was recently listed.
“Cory was disheartened when she found out there was no real help in the pipeline for me,” says Christopher. "I think she has always been about breaking up the good old boys network in Carlsbad. But in this case, the machine prevailed, and we didn’t fit into their agenda.”
Economic development analyst Lewis responds: “Staff listened to Mr. Christopher’s business plans and ideas ands provided him with as much information as possible regarding the properties in question. Staff was cordial, polite, and respectful of Mr. Christopher and his concerns…The city staff provided as much information as we could, given the facts that was provided.”
Garrison Zoutendyk says he will miss Lhooq Books. “They have been an amazing platform for all kinds of artists to do anything they want in any medium.” Zoutendyk and his local record label BoneJaw Records has used Lhooq Books to put on live rock. “My experience growing up was that Oceanside was always more supportive of the arts than Carlsbad and that’s why I gravitated to Oceanside. It seemed like Carlsbad was just headed for gentrification. But Lhooq Books is why I was starting to have hope in Carlsbad.”
He says the the local live music scene won’t die. “We can always scrounge up places to have house shows. But having a spot like Lhooq Books pop up again will determine whether the music scene can take off.”