Sonoma Bookends will close Oct. 15
JEFF SIMMONS, who owns Sonoma Bookends with his wife, Jennifer, is closing the store on Oct. 15.
One of Sonoma's two longtime bookstores, Sonoma Bookends, will be closing its doors for good on Saturday, Oct. 15.
Jeff Simmons, who owns the store with his wife Jennifer, bought Bookends in 1987 from Tom Piper who started it in 1979. It was one of the first stores to open in the Sonoma Marketplace.
Friday, with a little more than two weeks before closing, Simmons was still taking orders for customers.
Michelle Scaife came in looking for a book, but after checking what inventory he has left, Simmons told her it wasn't in stock. But before Scaife said anything, Simmons picked up the phone and called Readers' Books to see if they might have it.
They didn't, but Simmons said he could order the book and it would be in on Tuesday. That was good enough for Scaife who prepaid for the book.
That's the sort of service the Simmons' provided their customers. And their customers have been stopping by to thank the couple.
Pat Ross dropped by with a plant.
"They've been so wonderful," Ross said. "I would come in here after seeing an author on TV, but couldn't remember either the author or the book ... and they'd find it for me."
Simmons said closing the store wasn't an easy decision, and that it was a perfect storm that forced their hands.
"It was a tough time after Ralph's (supermarket) closed and Whole Foods opened," he said, pointing out that foot traffic was down because the center lacked an anchor to attract people.
"Then the economy tanked," he said. "But it was the Internet and Kindle that were the main reasons. We looked earlier this year and it was obvious we weren't going to be able to sustain."
Simmons pointed out that Kindle was what hurt the most. He said e-books on Kindle are the same price as their paper counterparts, but people seem to want the convenience of the Kindle.
Once people started buying Kindles, hard back sales fell off, then mass market paperback sales took a nosedive.
"We noticed a huge drop off," he said. "At the end of the summer, we asked ourselves how much further we could go."
"In the end, we couldn't see a light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
During an interview, Pat and Ken McTaggert wandered into the store with Pat carrying a bottle of wine for the Simmonses as a going-away present.
"We feel terrible," Pat McTaggert said. "We've been bringing our kids here since they were in their teens ... and now we're bringing our grandchildren in." She called the store, "our home away from home."
After hugs with the McTaggerts, Simmons waited on another customer.
Nancy Dilley was buying some books and said that she used to bring her daughters to the store.
When things quieted down, Simmons said he hasn't decided what he's going to do next, and he probably won't decide until after the first of the year.
"We're going to go camping," he said. "We haven't done that in four or five years. And Jennifer is going to work at the Toy Shop for Christmas."
At their peak, the store employed seven people. Now it's down to the Simmons and Pat Carpenter, a part-timer who's been with them since the store opened.
"I'm going to miss the day-to-day interaction with the people," Simmons said. "We've made so many friends through the store."
Their customers evidently agree. Ross, who dropped off the plant, said, "this is a terrible loss to our community."