Tuesday, September 13, 2005

RESCUING KEPLER'S


From the Mercury News:

INVESTOR GROUP HOPES TO REOPEN PRIZED BOOKSTORE
By Renee Koury
Mercury News

The abrupt shutdown of Kepler's Books after 50 years has brought together an eclectic group of Peninsula professionals and business people with one thing in common: They're all loyal customers of the popular independent bookstore and aim to revive it.

``We never knew each other before this, but people from all walks of life are coming up to me these days and asking how they can help,'' said Jillian Manus-Salzman, a literary agent from Atherton who joined an investor group trying to reopen the store that had become the heart and soul of Menlo Park and one of only a few independent bookstores on the Peninsula.

The group of about 15 investors was spearheaded by Daniel Mendez of Menlo Park, a co-founder and vice president of Visto Corp., a wireless tech firm in Redwood City. He was there when it shut down Aug. 31 and contacted the owner the next day saying he wanted to revive it.

A main goal is to negotiate a lower rent for the 10,000-square-foot store. The rate, exceeding $30,000 a month, was set during economic boom times and seems above current market rates, Manus-Salzman said.
The owner, the Tan Group of Palo Alto, offered to lease a smaller space, but not to reduce the price per square foot, Manus-Salzman said. But the store needs ample shelf space to generate sales. A representative of the Tan Group could not be reached for comment Monday.

Store owner Clark Kepler, who took over the business from his father, the late activist Roy Kepler, said he was overwhelmed by the community encouragement.

``I don't think any other attitude than optimism is appropriate,'' Kepler said Monday. ``It's just an incredible outpouring, and I want to do everybody right by making it work.''

The little bookstore rose to legendary status for its personal service, multitude of author readings and events, and as a haven for progressive thought where people like Jerry Garcia and Joan Baez would visit.
Contact Renee Koury at
rkoury@mercurynews.com or (650) 688-7598.

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