Re-inventing the indie bookstore — Menlo Park store tries hybrid business model

By Ileana Najarro | 18 Dec 2012 - Peninsular Press

Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park reopened this fall after closing for a few months to establish a two-pronged business model: a for-profit bookstore with a nonprofit events arm. (Photo: Erchi (Archer) Zhang/ Peninsula Press)

Independent bookstores in California are no longer just brick and mortar shops that sell books. To survive in the digital era, they are re-working their business models to provide something online competitors cannot: an engaging community space with non-profit partnerships.
The past few years of losses sparked the need for a change. Independent bookstore membership in the national trade group American Booksellers Association decreased from 2,400 to 1,900 between 2002 and 2011.
Praveen Madan, CEO of Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, understands the power of a supportive bookstore community in this day and age.
“The only communities that will end up having bookstores are communities that embrace the idea that they still need a bookstore,” Madan said.
Madan, a former Silicon Valley financial analyst, took over management of the indie store this year when his longtime friend and former owner, Clark Kepler reached out for help. Under Kepler, the store faced losses of approximately $150,000 per year and was due for a final closing.
The store, founded by Roy Kepler in 1955, previously shut down for a month in 2005. Community fundraising efforts helped it re-open, but the latest closure would be permanent.
Madan and his wife were inspired by their frequent visits to Kepler’s to own and operate The Booksmith when they moved to San Francisco from Menlo Park.
A former community member who still valued his old neighborhood store, Madan took action to save Kepler’s.
“Kepler’s was my bookstore, it was where I used to shop,” Madan said.
This summer, Madan and a community volunteer coalition team raised over $750,000 from local donors to re-open and restructure the store
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