Michelle Pierce took ownership of Lido Village Books three years ago, just as the pandemic was taking hold. Now, months after relocating the shop, she’s focused on building a vibrant community of book lovers in Orange County.
When she first started thinking about buying a bookstore, Pierce had been living in Alaska for 10 years and needed a change of scene. “It was September, and we already had snow. I was sitting by a fire, looking online at stores around the world, when I found the listing for this one and realized I’d been to it before. I have family in Newport Beach, and I thought, ‘Maybe it’s time to come home.’ ”
She closed escrow on the store on March 20, 2020—just as COVID-19 was shutting down the world. “Clearly it shook up the business, but it did allow me two months to learn the inventory. And from the start, people were knocking on our doors, asking how they could support us. They’d call and tell me what they liked to read, and I’d pick out 20 books and lay them out on the carpet and take pictures. They’d tell me what they wanted, and I’d pack it up and deliver it to their doorstep.”
Through those front-door deliveries, Pierce rediscovered Orange County. Twenty years earlier, she had earned her bachelor’s degree in drama from UC Irvine and moved to New York, where she starred in a one-woman show and did voice-over work while waiting tables at Le Cirque. She got a gig doing shows for tourists in Skagway and quickly decided to make Alaska her permanent home. “I don’t know how you go back to the big city after being surrounded by peace and nature all day.”
Soon, she pivoted from the stage to the kitchen, opening a bakery in an organic marketplace, where she sold bread made from scratch to customers who were used to spending $6 for a loaf of Wonder Bread. “To bring good, fresh-baked bread to that community was a joy and a pleasure.”
I’m a strong believer that we pick up books when we need them. They speak to something we need in our lives.
She’d always dreamed of owning a bookstore. An avid reader as a child, she devoured the classics—which sometimes led her down unusual paths. “ ‘The Giver’ was one of my favorites, and after I read it, I thought, ‘This dystopian world is amazing!’ I started reading Ayn Rand, going from something that was age-appropriate to something that probably was not. I did that all the time; like, I read ‘Little House on the Prairie’ and thought, ‘Now I’ll read Willa Cather.’ ”
Her taste in books remains eclectic. “The older I get, the more memoir and history I read. It’s fun as you age to understand how we got to where we are today. I also read a lot of middle juvenile literature. To be able to write so well and engage young minds with humor and adventure is so beautiful.”
In fall 2022, Pierce relocated the bookstore to the other side of the center, across from the Lido Theater. This year, she’s planning to ramp up events, like quarterly open mic sessions for writers and book trivia nights. And she’ll continue to use books to connect with the community. “It’s such a different world here from Alaska. I was a little bit afraid I wouldn’t fit in, but being able to have conversations about books means you can fit in anywhere.”