More Than a Bookstore 3


When you walk into Beach Town Books, you might think you’re back at the beach. Shades of blue fill the walls of the shop, as well as the ceiling. There’s a shade to match the San Clemente sky on a clear blue day, and shades to match blues of the ocean. There are even walls to match the San Clemente beach sand.

In the room for children’s books, the walls depict an underwater world with various sea animals, including a grinning shark, a purple octopus and a whale with a tiny sailboat on its nose. The room was dreamed up and co-created by 11-year-olds, Olivia and Natalie. The twin girls are the daughters of Debbie and Scott Langston – owners of the bookstore.

The Langstons had been enthusiastic customers of the bookstore back when it was Village Book Exchange. They were all lovers of books and the young girls enjoyed visiting the previous owner’s cat, which they were quite fond of. Locals of San Clemente since 2008, it was one of their favorite spots in town for years. Last summer, an opportunity to take over the business was presented to Debbie and Scott, and they were delighted to take it.

After making it official in September, the Langstons spent two and a half months pouring a lot of sweat, tears and love into the store. They worked day and night, and sometimes overnight. They missed a lot of sleep and all of the fall and winter holidays. Scott repaired, textured and painted all of the walls and the ceiling. He replaced the fans and cut out some of the shelving in order to open up the space more. He also added white arches over some of the bookshelves, stretching from one row to another, which they plan to decorate with various quotes.

From San Diego originally, Debbie spent a lot of time in bookstores there as well. As she reminisced about her favorite bookstore there, she spoke fondly of the “smell of wood and books and coffee and the ocean.” She says it was the ultimate bookstore in that place, and she wanted to create that for San Clemente. With the smell of wood, books and the ocean already in place, the Langstons just needed to add coffee, which they already have. There’s a free, self-serve, coffee station near the children’s books room.

Scott recalls Debbie’s vision from when he first met her in 2000. He says she was a lover of books and always used to say how cool it would be to own a bookstore. Having studied philosophy at university, Debbie says she is a lover of thought. She is inspired by people’s stories, and is amazed how each author of the 70,000 plus books at the store has their own perspective.

“There is so much to discover on our shelves,” she says.

Most of the 70,000 plus books are used, but the Langstons carry a small selection of new books as well. They are also hoping to be a resource for local schools in terms of carrying required reading books, which they did for Vista Del Mar last year. As important as the books are, the Langstons see Beach Town Books as more than a bookstore.

Debbie says just a week before they found out about the opportunity to take over the store, she was doing some soul searching about what she most enjoys contributing in life. What she discovered is that she loves creating spaces for people to connect. She says owning the bookstore was an opportunity to create a space for people to connect, whether it be with each other, a thought, an author, their inspiration or healing. It was also an opportunity for the Langstons to connect with people in the community. One of the ways they do this is by hosting various events at the store.

Debbie says she and Scott started out with a list of ideas they thought were fitting for a bookstore. For example, they tried hosting a book to movie club, but it didn’t turn out as well as they hoped. Debbie says it wasn’t until she “followed the inspirations,” as she calls it, that they held a successful event. As the family walked on the beach trail one evening, twin Olivia mentioned she was bummed she didn’t have anyone to trade Pokemon cards with. She had the idea for mom and dad to hold a Pokemon event at the bookstore, but Debbie had a different idea.

Debbie asked Olivia if she would like to host the event, and she agreed. Olivia stayed up late that night making a flyer for her Pokemon event. When it took place, she hosted while her sister, Natalie taught kids how to draw Pokemon characters, and both girls played games and made new friends. Debbie says the parents and kids who attended made connections with each other that seemed to have sparked new friendships as well. Through the experience, the Langston girls became greater contributors to the team, which made sense to Debbie and Scott.

“It’s a family thing,” says Scott.

Scott says he and Debbie want the bookstore to be something the girls are involved in, as well as the community. With plans to follow the inspirations and hold more events in the future, the Langstons are excited to continue growing the bookstore as a place where people can go to do things they enjoy, and connect.

You can find out more information about Beach Town Books and upcoming events by following along on Facebook at BeachTownBooks or Instagram @beachtownbooks, or by visiting