Soon-to-close bookstore gets reprieve with new owners, new location

Mysterious Galaxy’s buyers have five-year lease for Rosecrans site


Mysterious Galaxy, a longtime San Diego bookstore that seemed headed for closure, is enjoying its own last-minute plot twist.

A married couple who are regular customers have purchased the Clairemont store and are moving it to a shopping center in the Midway District.

“Moving forward, we plan to uphold all that makes Mysterious Galaxy special,” Matthew Berger and Jenni Marchisotto said in a letter to the community. “We respect and value the store’s reputation as an integral part of the literary community in San Diego. We hope that as we enter this new chapter, you will trust us to preserve that identity. We have always seen Mysterious Galaxy as a safe place for anyone interested in exploring new worlds and never want that to change.”

They’ve signed a five-year lease for a storefront on Rosecrans Street, in between Sports Arena Boulevard and Midway Drive.

Opened in 1993, Mysterious Galaxy carved out a niche — science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery — that enabled it to survive the Internet-fueled decimation of more general-interest bookstores in San Diego and elsewhere. It has remained profitable over the years, according to its former owners.

But in September 2018, the owners decided it was time to “pass the torch” and pursue other interests, and they put the store up for sale. Although several candidates came forward, no deal was struck, and four months ago the store’s lease on Balboa Avenue expired. It continued operating month-to-month while the search for a buyer continued.

Then the landlord found a new long-term tenant and gave Mysterious Galaxy a 60-day eviction notice. Store employees said the bookshop would close in mid-January unless a new owner and location were found.

Now it has both.

Berger and Marchisotto describe themselves as “lifelong readers and avid fans of science fiction and fantasy.” They met in 2010 while both were graduate students in English at Cal State Fullerton and married six years later in a literary-themed gathering. He works in marketing for a local tech company and she teaches at UC San Diego.

They moved to San Diego in 2013 and live in Clairemont with their infant daughter, Amelia, and two dogs, Skywalker (named for a character in Star Wars) and Tonks (a character from Harry Potter).

“One thing we would like you to know above all else is that we, like you, are fans of Mysterious Galaxy,” they said in their letter. “We love Mysterious Galaxy for the same reasons you do and know that it will survive, will be saved, only because of your continued support.”

They thanked the store’s founders, Terry Gilman, Maryelizabeth Yturralde and Jeff Mariotte, “for creating a space welcoming science fiction and fantasy lovers of any age. They have given us, as the bookstore’s name suggests, countless galaxies to explore through reading.”

The store employs about a dozen people. It will close at its current location in mid-January. No opening date for the new site has been announced.

Gilman said she met with “a number of qualified prospective buyers and corresponded with dozens of others” before striking a deal with the couple. She described them as “passionate readers who understand our mission and want to take the business to the next level and ensure its future.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The sale comes amid something of a renaissance for independent bookstores in San Diego. While longtime shops in Hillcrest and Normal Heights have closed, new ones have opened in South Park, Ocean Beach, North Park, Point Loma, and Del Mar.