Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The Book Works is closing next month, one more casualty of our breathless rush to get our information and entertainment right this very minute.
The small, independent bookstore was the first tenant of the Flower Hill Mall in Solana Beach when it opened in 1975. The warm, inviting store with its oak tables and creaky wood floor did well for many years because the owner stocked books that suited its customers' tastes, and people in those days actually went to bookstores to buy books. But times change, and revenues dropped, and the current owner, Lisa Stefanacci, cannot hang on anymore. She is calling it quits.
I am as guilty in this sad case as anyone. I live near The Book Works, and although I told myself that I must support the store, I didn't very often, opting for the easy, but sterile experience of Amazon.com or the bigger selection of a chain store. So I'm wondering: Is the concept of the independent bookstore completely dead? Not necessarily.
It doesn't always work, but finding yourself a niche can help a lot. The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore on Clairemont Mesa features mysteries, science fiction, fantasy and horror. The last three genres aren't for me. But I can testify that the selection of mystery and crime novels is fabulous.
Missed a couple of Peter Robinsons? Lusting for backlisted Henning Mankell or Ruth Rendell? The Mysterious Galaxy is a good bet to have them.
The store is in good shape right now, and is, in fact, opening another store in Redondo Beach. But co-owner Maryelizabeth Hart knows that she will never
make a lot of money and that stability is the best she can hope for in the long run, even with a popular niche(s) and good marketing. Remember The White Rabbit, a children's bookstore which closed several years ago to great lamentation from its large clientele? It was popular, it filled a need, it did business. But it was located on Girard Avenue in La Jolla, a Bermuda Triangle of spiraling rents.
Do you patronize brick-and-mortar bookstores regularly? Which ones? Why?
Or have you abandoned the whole concept for e-books or even -- gasp! -- no books? Tell!