Save Kepler’s Mailing List and How to Help

Thank you to all who attended the rally last week and to those who could not attend but were there in spirit. We mentioned writing in through this website as one way to get on the mailing list for saving Kepler’s. Please email us and say Hi if you would like to be on the list. The address for those of you who don’t do email links is savekeplers@gmail.com. (If there are specific ways in which you think you can help–expertise you think you can offer–please note them in your email.) If you have previously emailed in through this site, you are already on our list. We will keep you informed of any developments in the effort to save Kepler’s.

As noted at the rally, if and when Kepler’s returns, there will likely be some sort of membership option available. The benefits of membership will be good and are not to be missed. In the meantime, while we work to restore the store, one thing you can do—in addition to getting on our mailing list and buying local—is to urge the Tan Group, to come to favorable terms with Kepler’s on its lease. Crack your knuckles and start writing letters. Even a brief message to the group in support of Kepler’s would be helpful. Contact info for the Tan Group: Tan Group: 3630 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306, 650.493.6500. They used to have a website, but it curiously went down last week. We persist in wondering why.

We are looking for Qualified Investors who are capable of making very large contributions to the effort to revive Kepler’s. If you are interested and think you fit the bill, please email us.

For those who missed them, we have posted some new memories of Kepler’s.

23 Comments

  1. Lucy Zhang

    I hope we can save Kepler! I live in Palo Alto only for 2 years. But Kepler is my favorite place. I and my son saw Dave Barry and my son met Dave Barry there when we were moved here only for few days.

  2. John

    My name is John,. Thirty-four years, five months, and one week ago, I
    began working for Kepler’s Books and Magazines, 825 El Camino Real,
    Menlo Park, CA. One month later my younger brother, David, began his
    job at the same store. About two months ago my daughter started her part time job at Kepler’s Books. I don’t know how many other syblings,
    and offspring worked at Kepler’s, but this is a family concern, in the
    personal sense, the Kepler’s family sense, and the greater community
    sense, from the local to the global. Long Live Kepler’s Books!

  3. Ann Coulthard

    Maybe a crazy idea: would it be possible for people to buy books at Keplers’s and on-the-spot donate them to local libraries (especially Ravenswood, that would need them, perhaps MP Library). The buyers might get a tax write-off, the books would help the needy, Keplers would get the business, and the taxes would go to Menlo Park.

    I was brainstorming since I buy 85% of my books, maps, and magazines at Keplers, but I don’t buy a lot–I don’t have room for a lot! This might be a way to increase “buyership” and benefit Keplers, the recipients of the largess, and the buyers. (I’m fairly sure libraries and schools can receive discounts on books that they buy, but Hey!! Except that Federal and State governments might lose, this keeps $ and books moving for the locals.)

  4. Larry Lewicki

    I am beginning to have some faith that there will be a near term
    financing arrangement that may save this bookstore for the next
    year or so. What I am more concerned about is that there may be
    structural difficulties in running a successful bookstore now that
    didn’t exist a decade ago.

    Several years ago – CBS’s show “Sunday Morning” ran a segment on how
    the internet was killing bookstores. Toward the end of that show
    they interviewed the owner of Powell’s books who said that they said
    that Powell’s new this was coming so they established a strong web
    presence and specialized in “rare and out of print books” – he claimed
    that Powell’s supplied most of the “rare and out of print books” that
    Amazon was selling.

    I’m not recommending this approach per se – but it’s a marketing example
    of “going where they ain’t”.

    I don’t purchase much from Amazon (I strongly prefer to support local
    merchants such as Kepler’s or Draper’s music) but I do peruse the
    customer reviews on the Amazon site a fair amount. I am impressed with
    the way they have established a community (especially with published
    lists.)

    I am hoping that there may be a merging of interests between Kepler’s –
    which has been especially successful in establishing local community –
    and perhaps Google – which has great web smarts and also loads of
    employees that live in the physical community.

    Larry

  5. Judith Fernandez

    Why don’t we use the word “keppling” for tee shirts, buttons, etc. as a fund raiser/membership drive? If you give x amount, you get an item using the phrase (I am the one who wrote the comment about how my family coined the phrase “Let’s kepple!” when we left the movie or restaurant.) I can see tee shirts saying: “Have you keppled today?”
    What do y ou think?
    I love the membership idea…and no need (as far as I am concerned) for it to provide any privileges…just to show you support the store.
    Maybe marketing needs to do things like: On Tuesdays, seniors get a 10% discount, on your birthday, the same, etc…for kids, a 10% discount or book club where you get a discount after 10 books…all ideas to get people into the store. Or “WalMart” techniques: today, between 10-2 all books 15% off, etc. Weekly activities, giveaways, etc…once the traffic is in the store, sales WILL occur…or use Fry’s techniques: one day sales on popular items (say, all Harry Potter books, for example, or Agatha Christie books)…in this competitive atmosphere where people want bargains, creative ideas need to be applied.

  6. Chrys

    Have you considered a collective model for Kepler’s similar to the one that has run the Cheese Board in Berkeley?

  7. Bob Siegmann

    I hope the interest I see by the landlord and by the politicians isn’t just a sham until the publicity dies down. The citizens of Menlo Park need to keep the fire lit! They need to let the Mayor and City Council know that, in the words of Gene Kranz, “Failure is NOT an option!” The phrase “We tried” is simply not acceptable and means expulsion for the Mayor and all city council members at the next election.

    I don’t know what we can do about the landlord except let Tan know that, if Kepler’s is not saved, then any one of their tenants is subject to boycott.

    Again, “Failure is NOT an option!”

    Bob.

  8. Larry Lewicki

    I wonder if it’s possible for Kepler’s to develop a relationship with any of the local
    colleges (i.e. Menlo College, College of San Mateo, College of Notre Dame etc.) to
    sell books related to their courses as a way of establishing steadier cash flow.

    (I’m sure that Clark has thought of that – but just need to ask)

    Kepler’s has done a great job with author lectures in the past – could this be
    futher expanded – teaming with local gardening/plant places (i.e. Roger Reynolds
    or the native plant place near California Ave in Palo Alto) to have a lecture series
    combined with book sales. (Kepler’s has some beautiful books on creating
    classic garden spaces in front of your house.)

    But I’m still stunned that the rent has been reported to be $30,000 (per month I’m assuming)
    sigh.

    Larry

  9. tara

    I do share the hope that the effort to save Kepler’s is beyond publicity. To have Kepler’s stay at its current store is nice, but at a different location in the Peninsula is great too. The importance is for Kepler’s to exist, another 50 years as mentioned at the rally.

    Some additional thoughts:

    Structured rent-to-own for Kepler’s.
    Kepler’s supplies technical books to hi-tech companies in the Bay Area.
    Booth at Menlo Park festivals to promote Kepler’s and other local independent bookstore’s publicity.
    Simple fund raising events like bakesale at speaker events, quarterly, semi-annual …

    I’m waiting to hear more on the membership option.

  10. Marshall Dinowitz

    I am sure that many in the Menlo Park business community and, to some extent, the Palo Alto business community recognize the value of Kepler’s to the health of their collective business communities. They must recognize that there are some institutions that provide services to the community that are not easy to quantify. Kepler’s Books is one of those institutions.

    In many cases Kepler’s is the major or only draw to Menlo Park for people from many Peninsula communities. When they come to Kepler’s, people stay, shop and eat at many other businesses in Menlo Park and Palo Alto. This is true for me and for many of my friends and acquaintances.

    For my part, I will contribute however I am able to the effort to re-open Kepler’s and help make it viable for the long run, including continuing to not buy on Amazon or at the bookstore chains if at all possible, even if it means paying a premium. I will encourage others to do likewise.

    Marshall, Belmont, CA

  11. dana

    I live three blocks from Kepler’s. What I haven’t seen so far is any real long term plan to keep this company viable. The reason why many in the area buy from other places is that many do not have the luxury or see an altruistic benefit to paying more for a book at Kepler’s that could be purchased online or at Borders. Kepler’s had no real web presence and they have no true market advantage other than a few hundred people who happen to be fond of the store. Until Kepler’s could develop a way to get back and business and stay there, reopening it would be a waste of valuable real estate that could be used for another company. Quite honestly, I have a hard time believing that many would boycott whatever went into Kepler’s place – even if it was another bookstore (like Barnes and Noble). The reason Kepler’s closed is because there is low interest in the store and its offerings (which were pretty slim compared to other places in the immediate area)- you can’t force market interest, no matter how idealistic or how noble your ideas are.

  12. Rick Schwartz

    Along the same lines as Anne Coulthard’s 9/7/05 8:57 a.m. idea, my thought is to arrange a “Kepler’s to Katrina Relief” targeted at the libraries whose collections have been lost to the hurricane. My impression, through the American Library Association’s website, is that there are several such libraries, though information is still sketchy and it’s a bit premature to send books just yet (storage is an issue). Apparently there is also a need for books at the sites where displaced people are being housed. Some organizations are just beginning to emerge in Texas and Louisiana to coordinate this. My thought is that members of our community would be invited to either buy books at Kepler’s to donate to this cause, or contribute money that would be used to purchase books at Kepler’s. The books would go directly to libraries in the affected area (and to help with shipment costs). I’m envisioning that if Menlo Park were to send, say, ten thousand new books from Kepler’s to the affected libraries, it could have an important impact at both ends. And ongoing, we could use the same concept to support our local public/school libraries too while, again, also providing needed sales to Kepler’s. Please post your thoughts and/or email me directly at rgschwartz@sbcglobal.net if you would like to help e.g., with coordinating with affected libraries or the American Library Assn, with Kepler’s, publicity, maybe setting up website? etc.
    Rick Schwartz, Menlo Park CA

  13. Julian Morley

    Has anyone asked Tim O’Reilly (of O’Reilly Publishing) for help? He’s very community orientated, lives locally (I think) and the O’Reilly technical books are the best out there for us techies. I’d love to see an O’Reilly bookshelf in Kepler’s – it’d stop my constant disappointment with the selection at the Stanford Bookstore.

  14. Roy Melander

    A friend posted this news and I am sorry for you all.
    If you can keep it open
    I will buy 5 books before Christmas.
    roy

  15. Karen Anne

    I really like idea #12 (books to Katrina-damaged libraries) once they have storage space. It would be a short term help, however. Getting a reasonable rent seems the problem that has to be solved.

  16. Ann Taylor

    It seems that many stores in the Palo Alto/Menlo Park area are closing. Is this area going the way to only corporate stores?

  17. Katie Miller

    Any idea when Kepler’s will rise again? My book wishlist is growing and I have vowed to buy or order through Kepler’s, but I don’t know how much longer I can hold out. Is there any way Kepler’s could exercise some financial relief that has been pledged and just open? The sooner the store is open and engaging in good old commerce the sooner its ordinary fans can really show their support. I’m unable participate in the larger investment ideas, but I can be a much better patron than I was before and I am eager to put my money where my mouth is. I am positive there are many others like me.

  18. Jenny

    I would like to reply to comment # 11. Unfortunately it is that sort of thinking that will shortly turn the whole Bay Area into nothing but a string of big box Walmarts, Best Buy’s and Border’s. In other words, a place without a soul. Losing Kepler’s is not just about a few hundred fans losing their favorite store, it is about losing culture, local business and the glue which holds a community together. I could go on and on about why this is not just about one store, but rather about a larger trend that is truly destroying much of what causes people to care about their community and their neighbors. Without this sense of belonging to a community and the give and take that those relationships involve, we risk losing much more than a bookstore. The big box stores may save you a few dollars in the short run, but what they will end up taking from you for the benefit of this “discount” is irreplaceable.

  19. Larry Lewicki

    In follow up to Jenny’s comments about post #11.

    Post #11 seems to suggest that prices are the only thing driving the market. For me, another need seems to be product diversity. I remember when I was a kid in Chicago – listening to AM radio hits and then driving with the family up to Wisconsin and hearing “other” music on AM radio. There was enough diversity to have many different music scenes going on all across America. Now we have Clear Channel effectively controlling the radio waves and concert venues.

    Likewise in the book business – WalMart controls the majority of the books sold and publishers have specific criteria for pubilcation so that books won’t be excluded from the small WalMart list.

    I believe Thoreau said that democracy was the tyranny of the majority. Unfortunately there is an aspect of the drive for capitalistic market efficiency that becomes the tyranny of the majority as well.

    I don’t know what the solution is – but the closing of Kepler’s makes me feel that the trend is going in the wrong direction.

    Larry

  20. dana

    To comment 18: Yes, it is that thinking that is putting a lot of local businesses out of business, but you cannot force people to care about their community in this way, i.e. shopping at a local bookstore that does not serve their needs (which I bet for a lot of people, it didn’t and why they shopped elsewhere). To reopen Kepler’s without a solid business plan that could keep it in business for longer than a couple of months would just be trying to postpone the inevitable. Remember that a lot of these “big box” stores were once community businesses. These are the ones that succeeded and were able to bring their business to more people. There is nothing wrong with being a large corporation who did something right and is now able to serve a community that appreciates their presence. Borders and Barnes & Noble do a lot within the communities they serve, as does Starbucks. It’s funny that people reject capitalism when it is the reason many of these stores were around to begin with.

  21. Wendi

    Although many of us do like to support independent business as a principle; I think the reason people love Kepler’s so much is that it is such a great book store. I’ll admit that the main reason I shopped almost exclusively at Kepler’s was that I liked it best, not just out of the goodness of my heart. Most books that I have bought would cost the same at Kepler’s as they do in Borders or Barnes and Noble; if those chain stores even have the book; which often they don’t. If Borders and Barnes and Noble were as good as they used to be, I could imagine shopping there, but they have gone downhill. Borders is totally disorganized and even the staff can’t find things. Barnes & Noble isn’t quite as bad, but they don’t have the selection that Kepler’s had. They also don’t have the interesting tables where books of various points of view are arranged. Also, at least in San Mateo, Borders didn’t seem to have many shoppers; it looked to me like Kepler’s did better business.

  22. Karen Anne

    To comment on Dana’s postings (#11 and #20), “There is nothing in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper and he who considers only price is that man’s lawful prey.”
    Keplers had a fine selection. And compare the knowledgeability and helpfulness of its staff to the no-nothing staff at the chain bookstores.
    The reason that big box stores stay in business while driving local stores out of business is that they can offer lower prices because they treat their staff and their suppliers badly. Walmart is a prime example – terrible wages, unaffordable health care, suppliers running sweatshops and trashing the environment. You’re looking at the price on a product, and not seeing the other costs behind it. That’s capitalism at its worst.

  23. Anne Lerch

    In my tiny community, our tiny bookstore sells tickets to all of the local events that require tickets. Besides serving a community function, it causes people to come into the store–and as we all know, it’s hard to resist finding something you want to take home from a bookstore (especially Kepler’s!) I haven’t been to the store for a while (I live out of state now), but serving as a community center of sorts certainly brought the store loyalty for many.

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