Davis resident Bonnie Mintun pauses outside to admire the red-and-blue neon sign hanging in the crowded the window of Davis’ Newsbeat before making her way inside. One of only four in the country, the sign was a gift from publishers of the New York Times and has lighted up Third Street in downtown Davis for years.
On this day, Mintun, like many of Newsbeat’s devoted customers, comes into the store looking for “nothing in particular,” but leaves with a lot. Stopping to pick up a copy of a magazine on Buddhism she thought had gone long out of print, Mintun then scurries to the front to examine the chocolates before asking the owners for their opinion on greeting cards. Finally, the Davisite approaches the register with a 500-piece puzzle, flashcards for Latin learners and a stuffed, maraca-waving Chihuahua.
“The owners, Terrence and Janis (Lott), are always friendly and willing to help,” Mintun says while looking through a stack of jigsaw puzzles, in search of a gift for one of her in-laws. “I love just browsing here and looking at all the little trinkets here that you would never really see anywhere else.”
Although the store is best known for its extensive collection of rare and lesser-known magazines, Mintuns’ eclectic purchases are commonplace at Newsbeat, whose customers come just as often for ice cream and greeting cards as they do for reading material.
Now a fixture in downtown Davis, Newsbeat was the brainchild of the Lotts 25 years ago. Their aim then was to replicate a traditional newsstand, but over time, with newspaper sales dwindling, they were forced to diversify. Today, Terrence says some of their bestsellers include gummy candies and holiday cards, although its eclectic array of magazines remains Newsbeat’s “bread and butter.”
“We carry everything from cooking magazines to hunting magazines and a large number of foreign selections,” Lott says, laughing. “We have a dedicated group of women who come in every month for a sewing magazine called Burda. We don’t even put it on the shelves, we just leave it in the back for them to come and pick up.”
Terrence credits Janis for the store’s generous stock, which she “meticulously picks” herself.
“Most business owners will meet for maybe half an hour with a vendor and ask for their 10 bestsellers. Janis will spend hours going through the catalogue. It’s the reason why we have such unique items here.”
A Newsbeat regular, Mintun often comes to pick out woodworking magazines for her dentist, but she has another reason to patronize the store, which she calls a “Davis institution.”
Newsbeat formerly carried buttons from her daughter Anna Hoban’s locally owned business, Buttons N’ Bears Oh My!, one of many Yolo County vendors available there.
“We see customers just puff up when we can tell them that the product they’re holding is locally made,” says Lott, who recently agreed to carry ice cream from a Bay Area-based company that features pistachios grown at Roseville’s Fiddyment Farms, a regular at the Davis Farmers Market. “We feel great that we can specialize in that way and help local businesses.”
Newsbeat is one of a growing number of downtown stores that have joined in the Shop Davis promotional campaign. Launched last month, the program is supported by the Davis Chamber of Commerce and the Yolo County Visitors Bureau, and hopes to encourage residents to shop locally.
Both Terrence and Janis are active in the Shop Davis campaign and in the community, where they’re involved in the Second Friday ArtAbouts and the Davis Food Co-op.
“We’ve always done well here, better here than anywhere else,” says Lott, who has closed two Newsbeat locations in Sacramento. “Here we feel established, we feel like a fixture. But it wouldn’t amount to anything if the locals weren’t behind us.”
There are six reasons to Shop Davis, according to the campaign’s website, www.DavisDowntown.com/Shop-Davis:
* Sales tax: Money spent in Davis helps to pay for infrastructure, schools and city services.
* Community support: Local business owners are “more likely to support the same local charities, schools, organizations, nonprofits, events and festivals that are important to your family.”
* Convenience: Most shopping list items can be found today in Davis without waiting for delivery of online items or driving long distances.
* Jobs: Local businesses tend to hire locals.
* Standing out: Creating a city brand helps to grow tourism and attract other businesses.
* Eco-friendly — Shopping locally reduces air pollution and individual carbon footprints.