In the early 1970s, Linna Thomas sailed down the coast from Oregon with a few friends, bringing a boat to port in Morro Bay.
Soon after, she and her friend and former partner Janet Brown opened Coalesce Bookstore near where the Blue Sail Inn stands today on Market Avenue.
Ten years later, Thomas moved the shop a few blocks away to Main Street, not only acquiring a larger space for her books, but a chapel where she has officiated weddings and hosted poets, artists, authors, musicians, yoga gatherings and even memorial services.
The bookstore calendar is still packed with “happenings” each month.
“Life blew me on a warm current down to Morro Bay,” she said. “If you would have told me back then that I would be here 42 years, I would have laughed. The time here has melted away.”
Coalesce — which means to grow together or to unite — has been Thomas’ mission for the past 40 years.
“We do more here than peddle books,” said Thomas, 73, although her store is chock-ablock with new and used books, candles and cards. “We participate in the community. It’s such a beautiful place to live and to visit.”
Thomas said she is optimistic about a “Buy Local” movement and predicts the economy of Morro Bay will benefit from it. Over the past decade, independent bookstores, as well as big-box stores, have disappeared, but Coalesce is one of the few remaining independent bookstores in the county.
The stone chapel brings in people from all over the world who want to be married there, in the midst of a botanical garden. Thomas said that it helps that Morro Bay is a destination point.
“Morro Bay made me feel welcome the minute I stepped off that boat,” she said. “We have a comfortable business here, but it’s never going to be a big money-maker. It’s a labor of love, and it gives me the freedom to do what I really want to do.”