Kepler's Books plans reboot

Will return by Labor Day with fresh look

As part of the ongoing effort to open a new chapter at Kepler's Books, the iconic Menlo Park bookstore will close for six weeks starting July 1. Plans are to use the downtime to improve the store.

Look for fresh inventory and more inviting, interesting layouts when the store reopens, according to transition team leader Praveen Madan. Other minor upgrades include new computer systems to provide "better, faster customer service."

"We've been talking about doing a reboot of Kepler's for a while. It became apparent that when we look at what we have to work through, we could drag it out and do one project at a time and it would literally take years," Mr. Madan said. "Or we could take a complete break from running the store day in and day out and get it all done at once."

The bookstore's staff, who will spend the closure partly on furlough and partly in training, has been aware that the temporary shutdown was coming for several months, he said. "To my way of looking at it, the store was on the verge of closing in January. We've been able to add six months of life to the store; people are mostly pretty positive about it."

Author readings scheduled for July will be relocated or postponed if possible. Otherwise, the store might open its doors briefly for specific events, the Keplers2020 website said. Meanwhile, the store will continue to sell books online.

Mr. Madan, a partner of Booksmith in San Francisco and Berkeley Arts and Letters, announced a fundraising campaign in May that aims to raise $1 million by the end of summer. So far almost 700 donors have contributed a little over $725,000, in amounts ranging from $5 to $100,000. He said it was gratifying to see the support for a bookstore located in one of the most-tech savvy communities in the Bay Area.

The long-term goal is to create a for-profit, community-owned bookstore alongside a nonprofit organization that offers an expanded slate of author events, workshops, and other resources. The transition team set about eliminating about $1 million in old debt and streamlining operations so that the bookstore is already making a small profit, according to staff.

The bookstore will host an invite-only "Future Search" planning meeting at the end of July. Mr. Madan said donors, publishers, authors, bookstore owners, and others invested in the book industry will spend two and a half days discussing what the new Kepler's could look like.

While its ultimate future remains to be seen, one facet of Kepler's will stay the same for now: its address. According to Mr. Madan, the bookstore recently finalized a renewed lease for 1010 El Camino Real. The term of the lease is 10 years with two renewal options of five years each.

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