It was another sunny weekend in San Diego when I stumbled across a beautiful storefront known as D.G. Willis Books. Now, I am a bit of a bibliophile, so whenever I see bookstores, I have to investigate. I walked up the small porch and traveled back in time; suddenly, I was in a vintage 1930s-esque store that greeted me with that intoxicating smell of books and calming classical music. The wooden shelves went up to the ceiling and were lined with everything from the Greek classics to historical fictions. After taking several ‘candid’ photos and recreating that scene from “Beauty and the Beast” for Instagram, I had to find out more about the man behind this small time capsule in the middle of downtown La Jolla.
Dennis G. Wilis, the owner, as you might have inferred, is a bit of a bookworm, hence his shelves being packed with every kind of novel imaginable. Originally, he had a storefront two streets down from his current location but his original plan was to be located near UC San Diego’s campus. “ I always have some classic books that a lot of students could use for class and discover new favorites,” he said. Later, as his collection expanded, he moved to his current location on Girard Avenue. He built the wooden ceiling details and porch himself to give the store that vintage feel.
Dennis also decided to rent out the space next door and cut a hole in the wall to make room for his expansive collection of books, but also other collectibles that add to the unique atmosphere. “I love thrifting at garage and estate sales, I always find the coolest things” he said. And, true to his word, he has a fun eclectic mix of figurines and a vintage water heater because “no bookstore is complete without one [water heater]!” One of his favorite pieces is a statute that he received from a local artisan during his time in the service. It was inspired by the “Dans la Bibliotheque” (In the Library), a painting of a woman losing herself in a book, something that every book lover can relate too.
Dennis also hosts numerous events to bring book lovers together. Many famous authors across multiple genres and fields have visited his store. He proudly displays photos of his guests across his store, as well as articles he has been featured in. One familiar name might be Francis Crick, one of the scientists who discovered DNA, who stopped by D.G. Willis books in the early 2000s. Dennis also has a YouTube channel that features some authors doing live readings as well as some UCSD professors that discuss their research. While Dennis is very involved with the UCSD community and has made appearances on UCSD TV, he would love if the UCSD student community could pick up a book more often. “While technology and the internet [social media] is great, there really is nothing quite like holding a bound book,” he said. If you ever find yourself in need of a good book, be sure to stop by D.G. Willis Books, and support a local business owner. His store is the perfect aesthetic reading retreat.