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Book Cafe Staves off Closure with Nonprofit Launch

The Capitola institution is making a run at a new venture before calling it quits.

The is a staple of our community. Open since 1980, the literary hub was named in late 2011.

But the local institution, like so many bookstores nationwide, is on the edge of crumbling. Citing economics and a turn toward the Internet and e-books, the business told Capitola-Soquel Patch that it's now or never — time to come up with something new or pack it up for greener pastures.

Over 30 years in the business is too many to throw away, leaving as just another sad statistic of this lowly economy. Simply put, the Capitola Book Cafe is not going down without a fight.

So here's the new concept: Update the store, beef up the website and turn the events program into a non-profit. 

In-store: The retail space will be streamlined, "increasing its inventory ... and refining its role as a cultural hub through the sale of unique products such as local art, antiques and handmade crafts," according to an official statement from the cafe. 

Online: The brand new Capitola Book Cafe website will have expanded capacity for e-books and online ordering. 

In the community: Perhaps the defining attribute of the Capitola Book Cafe is its series of unparalleled events. The business brings in first-rate authors for book talks multiple times weekly. Using that platform, they are launching a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Books Belong which will put on the "author readings, book clubs, writers’ workshops, tutoring, adult education, and more."

Books Belong is set to be the saving grace of the Capitola Book Cafe, which has posted declining sales five years running. It will generate dollars through grants and tax-deductible donations from the community. 

"Books Belong will work with community programs, schools, and teachers to offer not only a place to obtain books (and learn what’s new and notable) but tools for growing and nurturing readers and writers," Capitola Book Cafe Owner Wendy Mayer-Lochtefeld said. "Local educators have fewer resources than ever and our partnership with them is expanding accordingly."

What you can do to save the Capitola Book Cafe: The Book Cafe is reaching out to the community it has served for three decades to help in its rectification and future success. Leading up to the launch of the new business model, the cafe is holding its "Survive and Thrive" fundraising campaign from May 20 until June 30, with a goal of raising $285,000 both to make up for slow sales over the past five years, and to gear up for the launch of Books Belong. 

On May 20, the cafe will host the Survive and Thrive Kick-Off Party with food, beer, wine, live bluegrass music by Windy Hill and a silent auction.

"The success of the “Survive & Thrive” campaign is critical to ... the survival of Capitola Book Cafe. ... Should this campaign fall short, the owners are prepared to accept the inevitable closure of the Book Cafe," the business said in a prepared statment.

"This is an all-or-nothing effort," said Mayer-Lochtefeld. "We have a relationship with our community and we’re not prepared to give up without offering them an option for success. We believe this evolution creates a 21st century model for sustainability and growth in a neighborhood like ours. And we’re going to need the community’s help to make it happen."

Are you willing to donate to help save the Capitola Book Cafe? What do you think of the nonprofit approach? Tell us in the comments!

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Jacob Bourne May 08, 2012 at 09:47 PM
The immediacy of the internet — exactly what you're describing, is the biggest problem for bookstores, especially mom and pop shops. Hopefully the inventory problems you're mentioning will be solved with the new streamlining of the store. And while the declining sales might suggest that "it's time," like you said, here's to hoping the Books Belong can be the cafe's saving grace.
Just One Vote May 09, 2012 at 02:28 AM
If libraries can figure out "SHHHHHH", so can the Book Cafe. Study karels? Quiet zones? Like Rosie the Riveter said, "We Can Do It". There are too many creative people in this community to let anything stand in the way of learning.......
Peking May 09, 2012 at 03:47 AM
Bookstores aren't supposed to be quiet. The chatter over what books to buy; kids excitedly turning the pages of the newest picture books; more chatter at the checkout counter as new books are purchased; laughter emitting from a group of women as they discuss what they read last night in the hot, new bestseller, all this makes for a successful and thriving book-selling business.
Judie May 13, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Check out the model of Book Passages in Corte Madera. Lots of classes plus lots of authors J.Block
Misty Dahl May 24, 2012 at 12:19 AM
This is how I've solved the inventory issue (but as Jacob said, the new business model should solve it). I go to the bookstore a lot. Perhaps, one would say, too much. One day I finally asked them to order a book for me. Within days it was there. It became an adventure, like when I was a kid, ordering from scholastic book club. Just about all the books I buy are from Capitola Book Cafe and most of them I order. Once I got the used to ordering and pick up, I loved it. I do love it. I agree that it's hard to go into a store--shopping for a book that I need as a gift, for a class or for a group and it's not there, but usually I can wait, or download it. As far as the noise and the structure of CBC. Perhaps they will make a change with the new design--they said they'd be making the store smaller (to help with rent). Perhaps part of the new design could be a room or two where the events will take place--or like Jacob said--maybe some of the events will be held elsewhere. I'll for sure check out Book Passages, Judy. I'm thinking of Dave Eggers pirate supply shop and 826 Valencia's writing rooms.

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