When Chris Saccheri found out the beloved Linden Tree Bookstore in Los Altos that had served generations of families for nearly 40 years was in danger of closing down, he knew he had to take action. The owners had put the longtime bookstore on the market twice over the past year, but no buyers had stepped up.
"I didn't want to see this great place where I took my kids to close for good," said the Palo Alto resident. "With no prior book experience, I sent an email to my friend and asked, 'Hey! Want to run a bookstore with me?'"
That friend was Florina Grosskurth, whom he'd previously worked with at Linkedin. Her answer was, "yes."
The pair purchased the store at 265 State St. in September and jumped headfirst into the book-selling business.
Neither of the friends had any experience running a bookstore, but both of their circumstances couldn't have been more fitting for the opportunity. After they left LinkedIn, Saccheri became a full-time dad to his three children. Grosskurth, who has two children, went on to run people operations at Wealthfront and started her own consulting business. But she was looking for something that better utilized her skills in operations and social media, while also having her children around.
Continuing an independent children's bookstore's legacy fit the bill.
With book-loving children of their own, Saccheri and Grosskurth purchased the store with the goal of preserving it as a community hotspot.
"I think there's still room for bookstores. People are still passionate about reading, and children's books especially lend themselves to be read in a physical form," Saccheri said.
What sets Linden Tree apart from other bookstores is that 80 to 90% of the store's inventory consists of children's titles, with young adult and adult books making up the remainder, Saccheri said.
"We know children's books really well and know what kind of books to recommend," Saccheri said. "If you were to ask what a 5-year-old into Minecraft would like, we have just the book for them."
Los Altos resident and longtime customer Sue Larraway has frequented Linden Tree ever since she moved to the area in the 1980s. One of the things she likes about the store is its friendly atmosphere and variety of titles.
"I came here with my children when they were younger, and I love that they have a wide selection to choose from," Larraway said. "Now I have nieces and nephews, and I enjoy coming back here for books."
But in the digital age of Kindles and tablets, it takes more than just a good book selection to attract people to the store, Saccheri said. To keep the bookstore relevant, Saccheri said they must do more than just keep their doors open; Linden Tree needs to be a hub for the community.
"The previous owners already did a fantastic job hosting storytimes for kids, author events and in-store fundraisers," Saccheri said. "We want to build on that and become a place for kids to hang out and learn."
Saccheri said they have plans to develop workshops for children to share their own stories for others to read. This is the next logical step in children's development and serves a double function to promote learning as well as keep people interested in the activities and events going on inside Linden Tree.
"We're interested in kids telling their own stories in all the different ways possible, through writing short stories or poems, even drawing or painting," Saccheri said.
Looking forward, Linden Tree aims to increase the number of workshops and author events as well as host children's birthday parties. Additionally, Saccheri revealed plans to bring Linden Tree into schools and campuses through book fairs and other events to promote youth literacy.
"I'm glad the store will remain open because we really need bookstores," said Lisa Orton, a Los Altos resident and mother of two. "I've been coming for years and appreciate the focus on human interactions and getting young people excited about reading."