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People in Your Neighborhood: When OB bookstore owner closed her doors, she opened a window of opportunity

Marianne Reiner of Ocean Beach, owner of the Run for Cover bookstore
Marianne Reiner of Ocean Beach, owner of the Run for Cover bookstore, closed her brick-and-mortar store last July but continues to sell books online and sponsor community events. Last year, she started an Adopt-A-Reader program that sends new books every month to students at Ira Harbison Elementary School in National City.
(Eduardo Contreras / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Run for Cover owner Marianne Reiner started an Adopt-A-Reader program with a National City elementary school.

She didn’t know it then, but when Marianne Reiner opened the Run for Cover bookstore in Ocean Beach in October 2018, time was not on her side. As it turned out, real estate was not really her friend either. And then there were circumstances that truly were beyond her control.

But when COVID-19 closed her doors, Reiner still had books and book lovers in her corner. And that was more than enough to keep Run for Cover in the race.

“I pivoted as quickly as I could and I had some amazing things happen. The people who were really faithful customers and who had really taken to the bookstore continued to stay with us, and then more came on,” Reiner said from her Ocean Beach home.

“That’s when I realized that I had to stick to what my mission was, which is to provide books to as many people as I can. And if they can’t get to you, you have to find a way to get to them.”

After Reiner closed her brick-and-mortar store — temporarily because of the statewide pandemic shutdown and then permanently when she couldn’t make a deal on the rent — she continued to sell books online to loyal customers who were happy to keep buying them. She started a monthly Book Lovers’ Club subscription service. She delivered books personally, held virtual events and opened the occasional pop-up store.

When she officially closed her doors last July, less than two years after she opened, Reiner decided it was time to make a grand, mission-expanding gesture. She was thrilled that customers were still buying books, but with libraries closed and schools shuttered, Reiner started worrying about young readers who couldn’t just order up a bestseller or two.

So she reached out to her friend Claudine Clarken, a sixth-grade teacher at Ira Harbison Elementary School in National City, and asked if her students might like to start little libraries of their own. The answer was an enthusiastic “yes.”

Then Reiner asked her newsletter subscribers if they would like to help her put books in the hands of Clarken’s students. The answer was an overwhelming “you bet.”

With the help of sponsors who contributed $15 a month for 10 months, Reiner’s Adopt-A-Reader program was able to provide 25 of Clarken’s students with at least one new book a month. Reiner chose the books and hand-delivered them to the students’ homes. Each book came with a personal note inside.

It’s not just that Reiner wanted the kids to have books. She wanted them to have the right books at the perfect time.

Since the program started in September, Reiner has delivered books about the healing powers of honest conversations (“Harbor Me” by Jacqueline Woodson); resiliency in the face of Hurricane Katrina (“Saint Louis Armstrong Beach” by Brenda Woods); the adventures of a Korean American teenager who dreams of being a stand-up comedian (“Stand Up, Yumi Chung!” by Jessica Kim); and the dreams of a Black girl who loves escaping into science-fiction (“My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich” by Ibi Zoboi).

One of the most recent titles was Lisa Fipps’ “Starfish,” a novel-in-verse that takes on fat-shaming, bullying and survival. After getting Fipps’ book to the students, Reiner delivered Fipps and San Diego author Chris Baron (“The Magical Imperfect”) to the sixth-graders for an online confab.

“She just knows,” Clarken said of Reiner’s literary intuition. “In teaching sixth grade, we constantly have to talk about really big issues with the kids. It’s not lost on them when they see things on the news that are upsetting or mean something to them personally.

“The books she chooses are so timely. She knows kids want to see themselves in the books they read, and I really do feel like the books she has selected, because they connect with the kids, are elevating their own writing. It feels like magic. That is the only way I know how to say it.”

And there’s more where that came from.

In May, Reiner sent out a newsletter asking supporters to help her celebrate her 47th birthday by adopting more readers. That goal got a major head start when Niccolò Angius, co-owner of Cesarina Ristorante in Point Loma, said he and his business partners would sponsor an entire class.

Reiner hopes to sponsor two or three or more classes this year.

“I know it’s a cliché, but books change lives. Books changed my life, and I have witnessed that change in others,” Reiner said. “My hope for the students who already like to read is that now they will have a real love of reading. And for the ones who are more hesitant about it, I hope they realize that reading is something that is accessible to them.

“The dream would be to see one of them write a book. That would be amazing.”

For information about Run for Cover’s Adopt-A-Reader program, visit runforcoverbookstore.com/adopt-a-reader.

Point Loma-OB Monthly’s People in Your Neighborhood series shines a spotlight on notable locals we all wish we knew more about. If you know someone you’d like us to profile, send an email to robert.vardon@lajollalight.com.


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