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.)