What do you get when you combine a reporter, an Oakhurst bookstore, a cheerleader and comfortable bras?
A really good story – at least I hope you’ll think so.
See, Oakhurst-based Branches Books & Gifts moved to a new location, in the same shopping center as Vons at 40044 Highway 49, next to Big Kahuna Yogurt. The owner had emailed a press release about its pending move, and being the reporter who covers retail for The Bee, I figured I’d get around to writing about the store eventually.
But the weekend I visited the store I was off duty. My husband and I just bought a Mach 1 Mustang and lately we’ve been jumping in it and going wherever it takes us, with no plans.
Have an amazing day and watch out for zombies.
Anne Driscoll, Branches Books & Gifts
A few weekends ago, after stopping for lunch in North Fork at the Buckhorn Saloon & Restaurant (which is an interesting place itself, with firearms hanging from the ceiling as decor, and bottles of condiments served in cardboard beer six-pack holders) we ended up in Oakhurst.
We always seek out local bookstores wherever we travel because we want them to stay alive. Plus, I was looking for comedian Amy Schumer’s new book (the Fresno County Library has it, but I was No. 45 on the waiting list).
Branches didn’t have it. I asked just to be sure and owner Anne Driscoll said no, that she had ordered it but it hadn’t arrived yet.
Wait a minute, she says. Maybe it’s sitting in her P.O. box, she ponders, and asked if I can hang on a few minutes. Driscoll dispatched a cheerleader in uniform, who, I later learned, was her 14-year-old daughter, Sandra, to check the box.
In the meantime, I browsed the rest of the store, which has all kinds of books and gifts. Their kids and young adult sections are robust. There are lots of books by local authors of all stripes.
Branches’ new store is 1,500 square feet, double the size of its previous one on Highway 41.
The extra space allows it to hold more events like author appearances and kids storytime without being squashed in like sardines, Driscoll told me later in a phone conversation.
The move has also allowed the store to expand its nonfiction section, adding books like Bibles, cookbooks, self-help books and best-selling nonfiction – like that Schumer book, “The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.”
The store sells sassy greeting cards, stuffed animals and silly socks. The colorful sock trend is huge these days and Branches carries socks with a disco-dancing Bigfoot, others with peanut butter and jelly dancing together.
“You should see the catalog. I almost died,” said Driscoll, who is part of what makes this bookstore a little quirky. You can tell just from talking to her that she has fun at her job.
But what about those comfortable bras?
Yes, they carry those, too. The bras are from Coobie, which makes regular bras and bras for women who have had mastectomies with pockets that can hold a breast form.
Driscoll discovered the bras at a book-selling convention (they were in the “gifts you can sell at a bookstore” category, believe it or not). She fell in love with how comfortable they were.
“I gave all my staff one so they would know how awesome they are,” she says. “We were testing them and now we’re all obsessed with them.”
The bras don’t have underwires and they come in tie-dye patterns, colors like tangerine and lime green and neutral colors with matching panties.
“They sell like crazy,” Driscoll says.
After a few minutes, the cheerleader has returned and guess what? She has the Amy Schumer book in her arms, which I promptly purchased.
Now that’s customer service.
Keep in mind Driscoll didn’t know I was a reporter. I hadn’t told her until our phone conversation a few days ago.
But it’s not surprising. Driscoll is on the board of directors at the Oakhurst Chamber of Commerce and founder of a social media marketing company.
The bio of the store owner in the news release includes this information: “slight obsession for zombie shows and dystopian novels.”
This explains why when you leave her a voice mail her message ends with, “Have an amazing day and watch out for zombies.”