News

A 'miracle' ray of hope for Kepler's?

Three investors step forward, landlord indicates desire to negotiate

A ray of hope has emerged that Kepler's Bookstore in Menlo Park could be resurrected.

Owner Clark Kepler told the Almanac weekly newspaper (sister paper of the Palo Alto Weekly) Friday that three "qualified investors" have come forward who might help save the 50-year-old store -- a Peninsula landmark and cultural hub.

"Miracles started happening," after the investors contacted him, Kepler said in the interview. "I'm entertaining qualified investors who are looking at saving Kepler's." He declined to name them or give details about the magnitude of the bookstore's financial troubles.

"Daily and hourly, things are happening. Yesterday morning I first started getting these possibilities coming forward," he said Friday. "I think something is going to happen in the next few days or in the next week that will tell me what direction we're going in.

In addition, the Palo Alto-based Tan Group, owner of the Menlo Center complex where Kepler's has been located since 1989, issued a short press release declaring it wants to keep Kepler's there and saying it met with Kepler Friday "to determine how we might work together to make this happen."

Help sustain the local news you depend on.

Your contribution matters. Become a member today.

Join

The release said the group was "stunned to hear ... that Kepler's books had closed their doors. Contrary to the impression given by the media, on several occasions in the past we have worked closely with Clark Kepler in successfully navigating financial challenges."

"We consider Kepler's a unique asset to, and irreplaceable part of Menlo Center" and "very much want to retain them," the release stated. "We were encouraged by today's meeting and will continue our efforts to help the Kepler's legacy endure."

David Johnson, Menlo Park's business development director, confirmed the possibility of a rebirth.

"Steps are being taken by city staff and others to investigate any possibility of resurrecting the business," he said in a press release.

Numerous Kepler's loyalists and staff members have expressed a wish that Kepler's could somehow be saved. Michael Closson of Palo Alto is circulating his e-mail address and soliciting suggestions, and a Save Kepler's blog (savekeplers.com) went up almost immediately.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox in our Express newsletter.

A few Kepler's employees even tried to think of wealthy locals who could serve as "angel investors," according to Andy Battles, an assistant manager at the bookstore for the past five years.

Kepler said the community outpouring has been heartwarming. He stopped by the store the day after it closed and saw the messages of support and sorrow posted outside.

"It's humbling to hear that kind of support -- and it also gives me a sense of hope and enthusiasm," he said.

But he added that "realistically, as much as I appreciate everybody's support, thousands of people contributing a little bit is wonderful, but it's not going to do it."

To all outward appearances, Kepler's was a thriving business with a national reputation, occupying a highly visible 10,000-square-foot store at Menlo Center on El Camino Real in downtown Menlo Park.

Kepler's drew a steady stream of renowned writers and celebrities-turned-authors at readings and book-signing events, and had celebrated its 50th anniversary in May.

But from the inside, there were signs that the business was foundering, Battles said. Employee hours were cut last fall, and the company was occasionally overdue paying bills to its book distributor, he said.

In the days preceding the closure, the ordering department stopped ordering new inventory, an unannounced book sale was held, and a store-sponsored talk by Alan Alda set for Sept. 25 in the Menlo Park City Council Chambers was abruptly canceled.

High rents have also been blamed. Johnson, the city's business development director, said that last year he unsuccessfully attempted to help Kepler negotiate with the Tan Group for relief "from an inordinately high 'pre-bubble' rent structure."

"In life, it's always all of those things," Kepler said. "At various times I was able to self-fund. I'm unable to do so any longer."

He confirmed he is talking with the Tan Group again about reducing the store's occupancy costs. He signed a long-term lease in 1999 at the height of the dot.com boom, he said.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

A 'miracle' ray of hope for Kepler's?

Three investors step forward, landlord indicates desire to negotiate

Uploaded: Fri, Sep 2, 2005, 6:43 pm

A ray of hope has emerged that Kepler's Bookstore in Menlo Park could be resurrected.

Owner Clark Kepler told the Almanac weekly newspaper (sister paper of the Palo Alto Weekly) Friday that three "qualified investors" have come forward who might help save the 50-year-old store -- a Peninsula landmark and cultural hub.

"Miracles started happening," after the investors contacted him, Kepler said in the interview. "I'm entertaining qualified investors who are looking at saving Kepler's." He declined to name them or give details about the magnitude of the bookstore's financial troubles.

"Daily and hourly, things are happening. Yesterday morning I first started getting these possibilities coming forward," he said Friday. "I think something is going to happen in the next few days or in the next week that will tell me what direction we're going in.

In addition, the Palo Alto-based Tan Group, owner of the Menlo Center complex where Kepler's has been located since 1989, issued a short press release declaring it wants to keep Kepler's there and saying it met with Kepler Friday "to determine how we might work together to make this happen."

The release said the group was "stunned to hear ... that Kepler's books had closed their doors. Contrary to the impression given by the media, on several occasions in the past we have worked closely with Clark Kepler in successfully navigating financial challenges."

"We consider Kepler's a unique asset to, and irreplaceable part of Menlo Center" and "very much want to retain them," the release stated. "We were encouraged by today's meeting and will continue our efforts to help the Kepler's legacy endure."

David Johnson, Menlo Park's business development director, confirmed the possibility of a rebirth.

"Steps are being taken by city staff and others to investigate any possibility of resurrecting the business," he said in a press release.

Numerous Kepler's loyalists and staff members have expressed a wish that Kepler's could somehow be saved. Michael Closson of Palo Alto is circulating his e-mail address and soliciting suggestions, and a Save Kepler's blog (savekeplers.com) went up almost immediately.

A few Kepler's employees even tried to think of wealthy locals who could serve as "angel investors," according to Andy Battles, an assistant manager at the bookstore for the past five years.

Kepler said the community outpouring has been heartwarming. He stopped by the store the day after it closed and saw the messages of support and sorrow posted outside.

"It's humbling to hear that kind of support -- and it also gives me a sense of hope and enthusiasm," he said.

But he added that "realistically, as much as I appreciate everybody's support, thousands of people contributing a little bit is wonderful, but it's not going to do it."

To all outward appearances, Kepler's was a thriving business with a national reputation, occupying a highly visible 10,000-square-foot store at Menlo Center on El Camino Real in downtown Menlo Park.

Kepler's drew a steady stream of renowned writers and celebrities-turned-authors at readings and book-signing events, and had celebrated its 50th anniversary in May.

But from the inside, there were signs that the business was foundering, Battles said. Employee hours were cut last fall, and the company was occasionally overdue paying bills to its book distributor, he said.

In the days preceding the closure, the ordering department stopped ordering new inventory, an unannounced book sale was held, and a store-sponsored talk by Alan Alda set for Sept. 25 in the Menlo Park City Council Chambers was abruptly canceled.

High rents have also been blamed. Johnson, the city's business development director, said that last year he unsuccessfully attempted to help Kepler negotiate with the Tan Group for relief "from an inordinately high 'pre-bubble' rent structure."

"In life, it's always all of those things," Kepler said. "At various times I was able to self-fund. I'm unable to do so any longer."

He confirmed he is talking with the Tan Group again about reducing the store's occupancy costs. He signed a long-term lease in 1999 at the height of the dot.com boom, he said.

Comments

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.