Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Cody's Books on Telegraph is Closing

Well, the news was as depressing as possible this morning. Cody’s Bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley will be closing in July, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The store has lost more than $1 million over the last 15 years, according to Andy Ross, the owner, who blamed the decline on the rise of chain stores and the Internet.

Cody’s will still continue at its Fourth Street location and at its new store on Stockton Street in San Francisco. But those two stores don’t have the depth of inventory and feel-free-to-browse atmosphere of the store on Telegraph. The south Berkeley store is an institution, a place that sat square and center in the various liberation movements of the 1960s. It is a half-block from People’s Park, the site of rioting and protests and just a few blocks from Sather Gate, the center of the UC Berkeley campus.

Telegraph Avenue is still a counter-culture environment, which may have contributed to the decline in sales. There are homeless people camped out in the park and it’s impossible to walk more than a few feet without getting a sniff of stale urine or being asked to buy a Street Spirit Magazine. Tie dye and dreadlocks abound. The street is lots of fun for youths and teenagers, but is not a draw for more staid types.

I am going to miss this place. I have gone to countless readings there. When I need a book, I know I can find it at Cody’s. The store carries almost everything, while other independent bookstores often have to order particular titles. This closure, Kepler’s near closure, and the announcement that a Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books is for sale, suggests that these are dark days for independent bookstores in the Bay Area.

IN OTHER NEWS, the New York Times has its take on the feud between the current and past owners of the Pulitzer-Prize winning Pt. Reyes Light.


A said...

You should see the memo Plotkin sends out to prospective employees. The memo was sent around a list serve I'm on, and it really insulted a lot of people. I wish I still had it to share with you. The NYT article has a great quote where he compares himself to James Bond. Imagine an email full of these kinds of similes and even more extraordinary claims. It's rather bizarre.

Scott said...

Huh. Interesting that you think the counter-culture environment would hurt sales. My guess would be the opposite . . . I see what you mean about it driving away the more upscale from-the-burbs type of consumer, but my hunch is that that's never been Cody's market.

Frances said...

I am just suggesting that Telegraph Avenue's scruffiness may be a detriment, particularly at night. Andy Ross said the store used to sell a lot of academic books and has seen that market dwindle. So if students and teachers aren't seeking out Cody's, who is? If it is more staid types, they might prefer going to 4th street, which is upscale.

Beth said...

In today's Chronicle Andy Ross and the owner of Moe's said the same thing. They blamed the city council for cleaning up the Shattuck area but ignoring Telegraph. At any rate, with Cody's gone those "staid" shoppers will certainly avoid Telegraph. I'm sure it will have an economic impact on the city.

The first night I ever spent in Berkeley was when I was 17 and up for a freshman orientation. That night I spent hours browsing Moe's, Cody's, and Shakespeare & Co. and knew that a city with three great bookstores on one block was the right place for me. Ten years later, it's still one of the things I love most about this city. Will Berkeley be the same without Cody's?

Tracey Taylor said...

Frances, I'm sure you know about this books blog, but in case you don't here's another one for your collection: The Litter In Litterature at