"Kepler's has always been more than just a store," said Sen. Simitian, a customer since the 1960s, in his announcement. "It has been a hub of intellectual free exchange in our highly engaged community. That's no small thing."
It's been a challenging year for the Menlo Park bookstore. New owners Christin Evans and Praveen Madan restructured the store into a hybrid for-profit community bookstore with a nonprofit events arm. A community fundraising campaign over the summer collected about $760,000; the money was put to use expanding the inventory of books and renovating the store to bring back the radical feel of the original Kepler's.
"We are honored that Senator Simitian chose Kepler's as the Small Business of the Year for District 11," said Ms. Evans. "Even in technologically advanced communities like Silicon Valley, independent bookstores are valued cultural institutions. We're proud to be part of this community and glad we continue to enjoy tremendous community support."
Mr. Madan echoed his wife's comments about the community backing the store's new chapter in life. "The response has been great. People are very thankful for the store being open again, and we are thankful for their support," he said.
Marquee authors such as Salman Rushdie and Michael Chabon have appeared at the store in recent months, and on Dec. 1 the store plans to launch a renewed effort to support e-readers, particularly the Kobo model. Mr. Madan said the new slate of writing classes is also off to a good start.
Kepler's is gearing up for the holidays, he added, and just published a catalog with book suggestions individually reviewed and recommended by staff members.
Sen. Simitian has given the award to an independent bookstore for each of his eight years as a state senator. "Given the considerable pressures facing independent bookstores," he said, "we ought to recognize the remarkable innovative spirit Kepler's has demonstrated by reinventing itself in this way. Our independent bookstores are a valued community asset, and Kepler's in particular is a real treasure."