In the back of a West Berkeley warehouse, Pegasus Books owner Amy Thomas is surrounded by boxes and boxes of 2015 calendars. She’ll be putting them on sale New Year's morning, and to say the selection is eclectic would be an understatement.
“Cowboy boots, pocket pigs ... I think this is our first year with sloths and manatees." Thomas buds with excitement as she sorts through the boxes.
“We have dogs underwater, that’s really a good one!” she adds.
For almost 40 years, the East Bay has been home to a slightly unusual New Year's Day tradition. Before 10 a.m., scores of people will line up outside Pegasus Books -- at all three locations in Berkeley and Oakland -- just to buy a 2015 calendar.
There are Flower Recipes. Witches. Moustaches for the Modern Gentleman. More than 600 different calendars, selling three for $10.
Thomas says Pegasus' three stores sells about 85,000 calendars annually, including 30,000 on New Year's Day. That’s a huge financial boost that has helped them survive, while many small independent bookstores have shut down over the past two decades. Thomas says that, over the years, the event -- billed as "the earth's biggest calendar sale" -- has become part of the store’s identity.
“It’s become this crazy thing that people look forward to. They change their airplane tickets so that they don’t miss it,” she says.
Inside Pegasus' Shattuck Avenue store in downtown Berkeley, Robert Lew is reading at a table, copying recipes out of a book. He's been coming to the calendar sale for the past eight years, and says he'll be here New Year's morning to get in on the deal. In the past, he’s found Hebrew, Greek and Chinese calendars that turned out to be his favorites.
“It's mainly the graphics that sort of turn me on to it, so it's not pre-conceived what I’m gonna get,” says Lew.
Another calendar-phile named Michael favors Japanese prints, landscapes and pictures of forests. But he says he prefers to show up after the first-day rush.
“I don’t like the commotion and the crowdedness and stuff like that," he says. "People don’t get into fights the way they do on Black Friday and electronics stores, but it's still kind of crowded.”
But some obviously like the crowd. Thomas says people see each other year after year and compare purchases. Others don’t want to miss out on what might be the most-talked-about calendar of the year. This year's favorite could be North American Grain Elevators ... or Underwater Puppies.