Only a Few Months Left for Bike + Book + Hatchet
Photos and words by Kyle Kelley
A couple years ago my girlfriend Liz and I were driving back to Los Angeles from Mt. Shasta and we stopped in Walnut Creek to visit Rivendell. Funny thing is, we never made it to Rivendell because we stumbled upon Bike + Book + Hatchet first. We were so completely immersed in the store, which is dedicated to the Rivendell ideology, that we forgot the original reason for our stop. I knew I wanted to shoot some images and share the story of this place, but I didn’t have a digital camera or any spare film with me at the time. It took two years, but Liz and I finally found ourselves traveling north for a wedding and made the detour to Walnut Creek again.
The modest Bike + Book + Hatchet storefront is tucked away on Main Street and easy to miss mixed in among stores like Pottery Barn, Chanel, Neiman Marcus, etc. That being said, B+B+H stands out as definite departure from the otherwise cookie cutter shopping zone and chain restaurants that surround it. At the entrance a lengthy explanation sets the scene for what you can expect inside and gives the impression in no uncertain terms that not everyone in Walnut Creek gets it. I’m not surprised. B+B+H is old world retail with handmade signs, orderly but not neat displays, a pile of old records on the ground to provide the soundtrack and staff that really care about what they’re selling you. Now that’s just crazy.
Believe me when I say you can get lost in this store for hours looking at all the bike stuff and everyday doodads. You’ll probably have to go back to the meter a couple times to put more money in, I know we did. It’s easy to spend most of your time just reading. All over the place there are thorough explanations about the products and why they are in the store. All very entertaining, written with the confidence of someone who has been using the products for years, and with opinions worth reading whether you agree or not. When you need help with something, or have a question, you just reach up and grab one of the many dangling monkey fists which are attached to an intricate web of feathers and jingling bells to alert the clerk. The good times don’t end with the products or the displays, they really get started when you talk to Grant Peterson. When we were done perusing the store we got into a long conversation with topics ranging across bikes, rare cameras, the great outdoors and pine tar. And with the talk of pine tar came a hatchet taring demo and more money in the meter.
Nothing can compare to experiencing Bike + Book + Hatchet in person and I strongly recommend high tailing it over there if you have the chance. I doubt there is any other brick and mortar in the world with such a uniquely and even at times absurd selection of bikes, books, hatches, US made apparel, fancy Swiss watches and a few wooden ties. I’m usually more selective about my edits, but I wanted this image gallery to feel like the store so you can get lost in the photos, quirky signs and explanations of products. It’s really the only consolation I can offer those of you who can’t make it to B+B+H before they close.