Sad. (Part 2)

25 Jun

UPDATE: DeLauer’s has been saved! Thanks to everyone who let me know in the comments.

On Monday I managed to avoid writing about the depressing news of Cody’s closing, but I can’t avoid it any longer. When I read on Sunday that Cody’s was closing, I was surprised and upset. I remember going to Cody’s on Telegraph during my first year in the Bay Area, marveling at their selection, getting lost in their various specific sections, and often walking out with a magazine or a book. And whenever I needed a hard to find book, I always went there first, and if they didn’t have it, they ordered it for me.

I was devastated when they closed the Telegraph store (the 4th Street store was never as good and it was so far away), but I was excited a few months ago when they moved the store to downtown Berkeley. So I was shocked to hear that after being open for such a short time, they were calling it quits.

When I read this, it sunk in even further that our economy has gone to shit, and our local businesses are hurting from it.

But today it got worse. DeLauer’s Newsstand is closing, today! DeLauer’s has been a part of downtown Oakland for more than a hundred years. While their selection has gone a bit downhill over the past few years, I can usually find any major paper there and often depend on the store for back issues. And they’re open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, making it practically the only downtown establishment that’s open past 8pm that doesn’t serve alcohol.

Owner Charles DeLauer had this to say:

“Business is down so bad,” he said Tuesday from his Piedmont home. “We just can’t afford the rent. It’s up pretty high, up to $6,500 a month.”

Joseph Churchward, the store’s accountant for the past eight years, said DeLauer’s has been financially troubled for a long time.

“The industry is changing, and books, newspapers and magazines are dying,” Churchward said. “There have been great cost increases, and it’s time to shut the door.”

Last year, the company lost about $200,000, he said.

But the closure of DeLauer’s can’t just be attributed to the dying industry. There are many thriving independent bookstores in Oakland (and we better make sure to keep them that way). Part of the problem is being located in that part of downtown Oakland:

It’s not surprising DeLauer’s has suffered from a lack of foot traffic. The asphalt thread on Broadway between 13th and 14th has in the past several years become a magnet for homeless people, panhandlers and the mentally ill who live in nearby residential hotels. With bus and BART stops out front, groups often loiter on the sidewalks, asking for money and harassing passers-by.

“It’s an Oakland institution, but it’s a tough time for a business like that. Downtown needs some revitalization and we are working on that,” said Scott Peterson, public policy director for the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. “A business like that survives on foot traffic, and you need foot traffic that is going to spend money.”

In the past year, the Gap store on Broadway has moved from downtown as have the offices of the Oakland Tribune.

I don’t have much more to say about this, except that it’s incredibly depressing and makes me worry about the economic future of our city. The only upside is that representatives from Oakland Citizens Committee on Urban Renewal and the Oakland Private Industry Council have said they’re going to try to save DeLauer’s. I hope it’s not too late.

(Related Post: Sad.)


7 Responses to “Sad. (Part 2)”

  1. gwen June 25, 2008 at 7:16 pm #

    apparently there’s been a reprieve

  2. Eric June 25, 2008 at 8:45 pm #

    Cody’s closure was so sad… I spent many great hours there growing up, and it’s a shame to see such an important local historical and cultural landmark dry up.

    I was actually even more saddened by DeLauer when I first heard, just because it’s been around for so long. But check out the Chron! Good news about DeLauer!

  3. The Overhead Wire June 25, 2008 at 11:28 pm #

    I just saw on Channel 2 that people have offered to save DeLauers and the landlord has decided that they don’t need to pay rent…

  4. nr June 26, 2008 at 2:41 am #

    just wandered past delauer’s at 2 am, thursday. noticed a hastily printed sign reading:


    , which of course led us to ask the guys inside:

    “what do you mean?!”

    they were sweeping out what seemed to be the remains of the newsstand, but were happy to inform us that…

    “we were going to [close], but we got some help from the city!”

    whatever this means, history will sort out. but you heard it here first.

  5. CLH June 26, 2008 at 8:08 pm #

    There aren’t “many thriving” indie bookstores in Oakland. I think there’s only one indie store devoted to new books in Oakland now — Diesel, and, from what I’ve read/know, Diesel has been struggling mightily for a long time. Mrs. Dalloway’s is in Berkeley, which replaced Avenue Books when it couldn’t hang on in that spot, and there’s Dark Carnival, too. Montclair has A Great Good Place for Books. It would be most helpful if folks shifted even 2 or 3 of their discount store (Costco, whatever) or Amazon book purchases to a store like Diesel; you’d see them staying in your neighborhoods for much longer if you redirected that small percentage of your book purchases. Seriously. I’m pretty sure the rest of the Oakland indie bookstore biz is predominantly used books, with maybe a small, curated new books section in most of them. Tho I understand Moe’s has been expanding their new books biz — but that’s not what keeps them in business. Some of these used books stores are fairing better than others, but I think you’d be surprised to know how many are barely hanging on. I correct you only because it would indeed be a dream come true if Oakland — and Berkeley — had “many thriving” indies; as it stands now, it’s only a dream.

  6. Becks June 26, 2008 at 10:06 pm #

    CLH – In my mind, I never really separate used book stores from new books stores – I lump them together in one category. In north Oakland alone, we have three bookstores that seem to be thriving – Diesel (new), Pegasus (used & new), and Book Zoo (used). I know less about other neighborhoods though.

    I agree that it’s so important to buy books locally. I only buy books online when I absolutely can’t find them anywhere else (and even then I feel guilty).

  7. CLH June 27, 2008 at 10:49 am #

    Hey there . . . I guess I’m recommending talking with the proprietors before conveying to the public that these businesses are thriving. I think if folks properly understood, in fact, how dire things are with our local bookstores, maybe they’d shift their routines a little. But that might be a little idealistic. And while I don’t privilege one shopping experience over another — I love any good bookstore — it’s a pretty critical moment when Berkeley has no new bookstores except chain ones — and when Oakland has only one.

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