These Binoculars are Out of this World!

By Blake Edgar

Bay Area birders in the market for new binoculars or a spare spotting scope know to migrate up the coast to Mendocino and stopover at Out of This World, an emporium for high-quality optics and science-focused activities. For 35 years, store co-owners Marilyn Rose and James Blackstock have been outfitting birders, skywatchers, naturalists, and other curious observers.

Marilyn Rose and James Blackstock

They have also been consistent contributors to Golden Gate Bird Alliance’s annual Birdathon. That support continues this year with a $500 gift certificate to Out of This World being among the items on the block for the Birdathon auction from May 7–21.

Birdathon volunteer Daryl Goldman says, “I have bought three pairs of binoculars from them over the years, and they were amazingly helpful and not pushy — in fact, often recommending lower-priced, better-quality bins.”

“We look at all the different models that are out there, and we pick and choose carefully,” says Rose, noting that “…we really help people figure out what the right model is for them.” Among the binocular options available are those from standard bearers Swarovski, Zeiss, and Leica, but Out of This World also stocks models from lesser-known, high-quality companies, including Opticron and Meopta. Binoculars and spotting scopes make up a large proportion of optics sales, which provide nearly two-thirds of the store’s business.

Scopes in Out of this World store window

Blackstock and Rose had Bay Area-based careers in the plumbing and banking industries, respectively, when the couple, Rose says, “decided to chuck it all and move” to Mendocino, a place they loved to visit. They had settled on opening a science store with an emphasis on astronomy and “thinking things,” but found that birdwatching and daytime nature observing grew in popularity while amateur astronomy waned.

Since 1998, Out of This World has occupied the corner Main Street location of a former bank built 90 years earlier. The old vault provides storage for the shop. Customers range from loyal local residents to international visitors who drop in while exploring the historic village, as well as plenty of folks following word-of-mouth recommendations. While Rose believes that optics shopping should be an in-person experience, the store also maintains an active online business.

Out of this World

Website sales helped sustain Out of This World during the shelter-in-place period that shuttered shops and truncated tourism. Throughout the pandemic, Rose and Blackstock retained their three long-term employees, including a former biology professor who helps with bird identifications. They also make a point of hiring Mendocino High School students, often providing their first job opportunity.

The store had its best sales year yet in 2022, in part driven by increased interest in both birding and stargazing and what Rose sees as “just pent-up demand.” She and Blackstock have returned this year to the statewide circuit of birding festivals to display their wares, dispense advice, and continue to match observers with their optimal optics.

Bidding opened online on May 7th and will end on the evening of May 21st. Click here to view the entire Birdathon Auction, or here to bid on the Out of this World Gift Certificate.

We are deeply appreciative to Blackstock and Rose for donating this perfect birder’s gift to support the work of Golden Gate Bird Alliance.