Encino Says: “Save Our Bookstore!” (Updated)

There have been too many stories in the last year or two about cities closing or limiting the hours of their libraries, but bookstores have been having a hard time of it as well. Shelf Awareness regularly reports on closures in the independent-bookseller sector – there’s one looming in Nashville – but they’re not the only ones affected; the big-name bookstores have been struggling too.

I live in what’s essentially a one-bookstore town…well, two if you count the recently re-opened Crown Books discount bookstore, which I still haven’t gotten around to visiting (and I am not counting the “adult bookstore”). Our primary local bookstore is a Borders. It’s a relatively small one, but it contains a Seattle’s Best coffee shop, hosts author events and entertainment, and as one of the few places in town that’s open late (till 10 PM every night except Sunday), it’s been a popular gathering place ever since it opened. I’m a frequent visitor on weekends, and I try to do my part to keep them in business. 

People in the San Fernando Valley city of Encino feel the same way about their Barnes and Noble – and they’re on the verge of losing it. While its arrival in town a decade ago may have irritated residents who didn’t like seeing a big-box bookstore squeezing out the indies, the B&N on Ventura Blvd. at Hayvenhurst has become a valued part of its community. A recent announcement that B&N plans to close the store, and that its landlords have already leased its space for a CVS drugstore, spurred in-person protests and angry letters to the property owner, and launched a “Save Our Encino Barnes and Noble” Facebook page. While initial reports stated that the decision to close the store was based on falling sales, later information suggested that it was due to a conflict with the management of the Encino Marketplace.

Seeing the community’s passionate efforts to keep the store open makes me inclined to believe that sales aren’t the real issue. I’ve shopped at the Encino B&N, and while it’s not my favorite of their stores, I wouldn’t want to see it go away.

TCU's Barnes and Noble Bookstore.Image via Wikipedia
(It’s not this B&N)

It’s easy to think of “the Valley” as a big sprawling place where one community bleeds into another – because, basically, it is – but most of its small cities have developed their  own local identities. Realistically, Encino folks could easily drive to B&N stores in Woodland Hills or Studio City, or to Borders in Northridge or Canoga Park, or to indies in other parts of greater Los Angeles – but it’s not the same as having their own bookstore, and they know it. So far, their efforts to keep the Barnes and Noble open have gained them some sympathetic responses, but no success in stopping the planned closure. 

I wish them luck…and I really hope not to be in their position one day. I’d hate to live in a town without a bookstore of its own, so I’d better make sure I do some of my holiday shopping at the Simi Valley Borders!

UPDATED 11/23/10 to note that this story has come even closer to home for me – I saw “Store Closing!” signs on the Borders in Thousand Oaks this weekend. I’m sad.

How are your local bookstores – big or small – doing these days?

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