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By the end of January, fourth-generation Stinson Beach resident Bonnie Sullivan (right) should be taking over as the new owner of Stinson Beach Books. Her predecessor, Annie Rand (left), had a knack for making astute recommendations—a skill Ms. Sullivan is working to hone. “In many ways, it was a sentimental purchase,” she said of her decision to buy the business, which is known less for its profits than its historic presence in the beach town. David Briggs

When Bonnie Sullivan left the library a few months ago with Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, a novel about a mysterious bookstore with a curious clientele, she had no inkling that she would soon purchase such a business for herself.

But not long after, she heard friends discussing the decades-old Stinson Beach establishment, then for sale by its . . .

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