Palo Alto Printers Inc. to remain open

Publication Date: Friday Mar 26, 1999

BUSINESS: Palo Alto Printers Inc. to remain open

business Longtime bookstore employee buys the business

by Don Kazak

It's hard to imagine the California Avenue business district without Printers Inc. bookstore. Fortunately, Palo Altans no longer will have to.

In a deal finalized Thursday, Matthew Duran, the company's controller for the last 15 years, bought the Palo Alto and Mountain View bookstores from co-owners Gerry Masteller and Susan MacDonald.

Masteller and MacDonald announced in December that the Palo Alto bookstore would close in April unless a financial partner or buyer was found.

The bookstore, which opened 20 years ago, has long been a mecca for book lovers and also has a wide assortment of hard-to-find foreign language magazines.

Masteller said the store has a loyal customer base, but high rent and online competition prompted the decision to close the store unless a new partner or buyer was found.

The increasing popularity of online booksellers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble is changing the business and putting great financial pressure on independent bookstores.

One of the larger and more venerable West Coast bookstores, the Elliott Bay Book Co. in Seattle, was sold earlier this month by its owner of 26 years to a buyer who will continue to operate the store but will add a mix of used books to try to increase the store's business.

"This is a best of all possible worlds," Masteller said of the sale. "It's someone who understands the store and the business very well." He said he and MacDonald would stay on for the foreseeable future to ensure a smooth transition.

Masteller also credits the store's landlord, Rick Stultz, for helping to keep the store alive. "He had an offer from a corporation," Masteller said. "But he understands the importance of the store to California Avenue."

"I am absolutely ecstatic about it," said Mayor Gary Fazzino. "This is the result of a hell of lot of good collaborative work by Susan, Gerry, Matthew, Rick Stultz, College Terrace neighbors and the city. I really have to give the owners and new owner credit for salvaging the situation."

Fazzino said Stultz played an important role. "It was clear from the start that he wanted to do everything he could if we could find a buyer."

The public also influenced the outcome. "The community sent the owners a clear message that having an independent bookstore on California Avenue was a necessity," he said.

The commercial street has restaurants, the Country Sun Natural Foods store, the busy Keeble & Shuchat photography store and Mollie Stone's Market, but it is a sleepy commercial strip at night.

"This is really a wake-up call for the city and for all of us," Fazzino said. "We need to develop a long-range plan for California Avenue to revitalize it."

Fazzino also noted that the Palo Alto Square theater and, more recently, St. Ann's Chapel, have been preserved after a local outpouring of support. "All were saved because Palo Altans wanted to save them," he said.



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