Shown entries: 1-5
"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.
"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.
"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."
"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.
"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.