Recycle Bookstore is a San Jose institution, beginning in 1967 when Pat and Joan Hayes created the store. It started on S. First St., moved to E. San Fernando St., and then settled on E. Santa Clara St. for over 20 years. Eric and Cynthia Johnson bought the store from Joan Hayes in October of 1998 and moved the store to its current location in The Alameda historic district. In early 2004, a second location in Downtown Campbell opened. On the heels of the bookstore's 50th anniversary in 2017, the San Jose location unveiled a new expansion, increasing the floor plan by nearly 1/3 the size, in December of 2019.
Meet the Owner
How it happened in 1998 is a bit improbable. Former owner Joan Hayes carried half of the loan and the other half was guaranteed by the City of San Jose, through the Office of Economic Development. At the time, Eric Johnson (pictured, right) and his wife had no money, no real assets, and no experience running a small business. They had to borrow money from their families to make it happen. Long story short, the city gave the okay, and he's very glad they did.
While still working at the San Jose Mercury News full-time, Eric worked nights and weekends at the bookstore. After going part-time at the Mercury for awhile, he eventually left altogether. Over the years, by listening to what their customers wanted, staff learned what books to keep in the store and which books to lose. As sales steadily grew both in-store and online, and as the business expanded (quite literally!), Recycle Bookstore has been consistently recognized as one of the best independent bookstores by locals and sojourners, new and experienced readers.