Palo Alto Online posted a history of Kepler’s by Michael Doyle that was originally sold at the bookstore as a small paperback booklet to commerate its 50th anniversary earlier this year. Palo Alto Online is also looking for Kepler’s-related comments and memories, which can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The final paragraphs of the article that appeared in the Mercury today:
The steady stream of visitors who approached the locked doors on Wednesday included Menlo Park public librarian Cathy Smith. “It breaks my heart,” she said. She and the other city librarians came to Kepler’s on their lunch break. And, of course, it’s where she bought books. “I don’t know where to go,” she said. “I can’t imagine where to go.”
Kepler’s celebrated its 50th anniversary in May with great fanfare and a huge community turnout.
“My dad had a vision of what a bookseller’s role in society was,” Clark Kepler said in a 2004 interview. Roy Kepler determined that his bookstore would be a community place where readers could find a book on any topic.
Karan Das-Grande, 10, was just his kind of customer. The boy’s hands went up to cover his face when he read the closing sign. “What? What! My soccer magazines! From England!” he said. “This is the only place I could get them.”
What did you buy at Kepler’s? Leave a comment or send an email.
Both the Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Daily News reported todat that Clark Kepler is filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This from the Palo Alto Online:
Kepler’s Bookstore owner Clark Kepler reportedly is telling employees to cash their checks immediately because he is filing for bankruptcy today, according to two-year employee Chelsea McNeel.
It seems to me that it would if it did. After all, the Kepler’s location is adjacent to one of the wealthiest (and most expensive) zip codes in the country.
Here are the local headlines with links to articles:
Palo Alto Online: Kepler’s Bookstore goes out of business
San Francisco Chronicle: Read it and weep: Kepler’s closes
San Jose Mercury News: Closing the Book on Kepler’s
San Mateo County Times: Kepler’s closes doors with no warning
The San Francisco Examiner: Much-loved independent bookseller Kepler’s calls it quits
San Mateo Daily Journal: Independent bookstore closes
San Jose Mercury News Blogs: Memories of Kepler’s Books & Magazines in Palo Alto
And some non-local coverage:
Publishers Weekly: A California Institution Shuts Its Doors
An article on Palo Alto Online adds support for my suspicion that Kepler’s was stuck in a long, expensive, inflexible lease that was priced during the bubble days of 2000 or so.
An “inordinately high ‘pre-bubble’ rent structure” contributed to the financial crisis that forced Kepler’s Bookstore to close, David Johnson, Menlo Park’s business development officer, told City Council members in a late-morning e-mail today.
He said he is starting today on an “effort to find a suitable replacement business” for the central location on El Camino Real in downtown Menlo Park.
He said the city “worked with Clark Kepler to help him in seeking relief from an inordinately high ‘pre-bubble’ rent structure. No relief was granted.”
It seems like a group may have to form to buy both the bookstore and a retail space. I’m not sure whether it is even possible for an independent bookstore to survive in the current location on El Camino and Santa Cruz, which is owned by the Tan Group. The Tan Group refused to comment to the reporter from Palo Alto Online about the structure of its lease with Kepler. Here is the address and phone number for the Tan Group: 3630 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306, 650.493.6500.
FRIDAY UPDATE: The Tan Group’s website appears to be down today. I wonder why.
Last night a friend and I arrived at Kepler’s to find it closed–for good. That I may never again call someone and say, “Meet me along the fiction back wall at Kafka!” makes me feel sick. I will be posting links to coverage of this story and other Kepler’s information, memories, etc. If anyone is interested in joining a discussion about what we can do to keep an excellent independent bookseller in the area, please email me.
Here is the text of the letter posted by Clark Kepler on the bookstore’s door and online at keplers.com:
Dear Friend of Kepler’s,
After 50 years of bookselling in Menlo Park, Kepler’s is going out of business. The decision to close our doors has been one of the most difficult in my life. As much as we love what we do and would like to continue another 50 years, we simply cannot. The economic downturn since 2001 has proven to be more than we can rebound from.
I want to share my sorrow with this ending. Kepler’s has enjoyed the support of this community from our inception in the 1950s, through both turbulent and joyful times. I feel blessed to have personally served as this community’s bookseller for 26 of those years.
In today’s political and social climate I would like to be there with you and for you, providing books and writers with varied ideas and provocative opinions, but the constancy of change will not allow it. So, I want to express my heart felt gratitude and appreciation for your support over the years. It has been wonderful.