This story has been revised, see note below.
Nine years after first opening their Malibu location, the owners of Diesel, A Bookstore have put their Malibu Country Mart location up for sale, citing financial constraints and a need to focus on a growing number of independent shops outside of Malibu.
“We’re just struggling to keep the [Malibu] bookstore, to keep people coming,” co-owner John Evans said.
In its near-decade of existence in Malibu, Diesel has become a mainstay for local book lovers, played host to countless childrens’ events and hosted famous authors such as Gerald Laird, Susan Casey and Joan Rivers.
Evans shared the news with The Malibu Times this week, revealing that he and co-owner Alison Reid have been spread too thin among three stores outside of Malibu, including two in Northern California. Their inability to focus more time and money on the Malibu branch led to the decision. Evans called it a “problem of our own success” and believes a localized buyer would improve the store’s performance.
“In general, bookstores are best when local people that own the place and live in the place work in the place,” Evans said. “I don’t work in Malibu very often and I’m probably not going to. And that’s what we realized, that neither of us is going to work there.”
Evans also alluded to slowing foot traffic and stagnant sales, but said Diesel remained a community cornerstone for book enthusiasts and would continue thriving if a Malibu local bought the shop.
“There could definitely be more sales down there, but that’s exactly the kind of thing that happens if somebody in Malibu is interested in having the bookstore: It would increase the sales to have a local person running it,” he said.
Evans and Reid do not want a potential sale to mean the end of a bookstore in Malibu’s Civic Center. Malibu Country Mart landlord Michael Koss also confirmed he hoped to keep the location as a bookstore use, but is “not optimistic” about finding a new book-selling tenant.
Separate from Evans’ efforts to find a local buyer, Koss’s development company has also sought out potential new tenants.
“We are working hard to contact a few local independent bookstores in LA to see if they have interest in taking over the store,” Koss said Tuesday in a telephone interview. “But at this point we’re not optimistic about that. It seems none of them are interested in expanding.”
While Evans and Reid call Malibu home (they live in a Paradise Cove trailer), the two have rarely spent much time in the seaside town since opening a fourth Diesel shop in the Northern California town of Larkspur last July. They also run their original Diesel store out of Oakland.
“Once a week we’ll drive up to Northern California, work for seven days up there, drive down, work seven days down here [at Brentwood and Malibu locations],” Evans said.
Travel obligations leave the pair with little time to properly focus on Malibu.
Evans and Reid said the store’s “systems, inventory, fixtures, computer system” are for sale, and they are hoping a new owner would retain the four employees who work at the Malibu location.
Now located at 3835 Cross Creek Road at the Country Mart in the Civic Center, Diesel originally opened a Malibu location at the Malibu Village next to Marmalade Cafe in May 2004.
“We originally wanted to have a bookstore in Malibu because we loved coming to Malibu, but there was a bookstore at the time when we opened [the Oakland location] in 1989...When we finally opened in the 2000s, someone called it ‘A dream deferred but not denied,’” Evans said.
After the Malibu Village shopping center changed hands from owner Steve Soboroff to real estate investor Matt Khoury, the bookstore closed in February 2011 before reopening eight months later to the Country Mart.
But Evans does not want a possible sale to be the end of Diesel’s saga in Malibu.
What happens if no one buys it?
“I don’t know,” Evans said. “I can’t predict what will happen. We’ll have to see if there are any interested buyers.”
Evans hopes to find a buyer in the next six to eight weeks, but has no definite time frame in place. Interested parties are asked to contact him at email@example.com.
A prior version of this story incorrectly named co-owner Alison Reid as Linda Reid. We regret the error.