Over the past 10 years, as popular chain booksellers like Borders and Crown Books have closed, a little book store with a big following is thriving.
Pages bookstore in Manhattan Beach did the impossible: they opened a bookstore business when others were faltering. And this week, the store is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
Pages celebrates the milestone with a luncheon with National Book Award winner Colum McCann on Tuesday, March 10. And, if you remember to wish them a happy birthday on that day, you'll receive a 10% discount.
So, how has the tiny independent bookstore been able to compete with online giants and rising rents?
The answer, according to co-owner Linda McLoughlin Figel, is loyal customers.
“It's hard to compete against the online retailer, who shall remain nameless, who sells books at a price oftentimes below what we can buy them for,” said Figel, who currently owns the store with Patty Gibson. “So those challenges don't go away. And doing business in California is tough, increasing minimum wages and rents going up. All of those things make it very difficult, but we love what we do and we can't wait for the next 10 years.”
Figel thinks the closure of Borders in 2011 was beneficial to their sales.
“I think we've benefited from a national shop, local support indie movement,” Figel said. “I think there's a bit of a pendulum swing, where people would rather have an experience of coming in a bookstore and talking to somebody and smelling books as opposed to everything is so available digitally.”
Figel and Gibson, who call themselves passionate bibliophiles, started a book club around 20 years ago. And, then, a decade later, they were ready to get serious.
“About 12 years ago, she (Gibson) said, 'What do you think about doing a bookstore?' recalled Figel. “And we kind of looked at it and I said, 'I'm in if it makes sense, but I don't want an expensive hobby.'”
Since the two had never run a bookstore business, they attended a seminar in Florida to learn all they could. They got discouraged, said Figel, because they wound up learning how little they knew.
At first, the financial numbers were not working, Figel said. But, the 2008 recession worked in their favor.
Margot Farris had joined as a third partner and “lit the fire” underneath them and helped them land their current location at 904 Manhattan Ave., Figel said.
“The recession hit and lots of real estate became available,” Figel said. “And so we had an opportunity to enter the market and more favorable terms as a tenant.”
Figel said there were some naysayers who suggested the beach city wasn't geared toward literature.
“People in Manhattan Beach surf and wear flip flops,” said Figel. “But the reality is they actually like to read and they like to read a lot of different things.”
Pages had 15 to 20 employees which fluctuates depending on the season.
The local bookstore has also become part of the community through outreach and involvement in local events. They bring in more than 100 authors a year and host five book clubs, focusing on mysteries, literature, non-fiction, as well as two children's clubs and a weekly story time.
“That's a really important part of what we do," Figel said. "It's a great way to bring culture and community and intellectual exchange into the community."
Pages also supports local education foundations.
“Every kindergartner who starts in the Manhattan Beach Unified School District gets a gift card from us that welcomes them to the world of reading and education and we encourage them to come spend that with us,” Figel said.
The store closes at 7 p.m. on March 12 for a private birthday celebration.
For more information about events at Pages, visit pagesabookstore.com.