And then there were none.
Bank of Books, Malibu’s last remaining bookstore, announced Monday it would be closing its doors for good at the end of April, citing “stagnated” sales as an explanation for the permanent closure.
“Please know that this is not another standard Malibu ‘greedy landlord forcing mom and pop shop out of business’ story,” explained a letter sent to customers by Bank of Books co-owners Clarey and Debby Rudd. “From the beginning, [property owner] Zan Marquis has been extremely supportive of our store. But our sales have stagnated, and it has become apparent that it is in the best interest of both Bank of Books and Marquis Properties for this location to close.”
Bank of Books has been located at Point Dume Plaza since it first opened its doors in July 2012.
Local reaction has been swift and sorrowful, according to store manager Pam Eilerson, who said phone calls and emails have poured in since the closure was made public Monday morning.
“Oh, everybody’s very sad. We’re getting lots of condolence calls and emails, and it’s very kind of people to call,” Eilerson said. “We just want to make sure that they understand this is a done deal, and it’s unfortunate but we’re going out with a bang.”
Bank of Books will be offering 20 percent off all books effective immediately, as well as a romance novel giveaway on Valentine’s Day weekend and other events.
The “greedy landlord” story referenced by the Rudds in their letter likely refers to the forced closure of Diesel: A Bookstore at the Malibu Country Mart in July 2014. Diesel and Bank of Books were the last two remaining bookstores in Malibu.
In a July 2014 guest editorial in The Malibu Times, Diesel owner John Evans described his issue keeping above water in Malibu’s competitive commercial real estate market:
“Our store is a casualty of out-of-town hedge fund and developer greed and indifference with regard to Malibu,” Evans wrote. “Though we had hoped to find a viable location with a reasonable rent for a bookstore, we have been unable to do so.”
Though “developer greed and indifference” are not issues faced by Bank of Books, Eilerson said.
“I think it’s important for any community to have a bookstore. Unfortunately, Malibu is such a small town and geographically such a string bean of a city that it’s difficult for any small business to thrive unless it also attracts tourists,” Eilerson said. “I know that if Clarey could find another location in Malibu with an equally supportive landlord, reasonable rent, good parking and good foot traffic, he would open another store, but I just don’t think that place exists in Malibu. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is.”
Rudd was not available for comment.
Bank of Books has grown popular among locals in Malibu, especially in Point Dume, for coffeehouse events and storytime for children. Mr. Steve — Steve Posey — a frequent volunteer at storytime and former St. Aidan’s Preschool teacher, is married to Eilerson and spoke about the benefit the Saturday storytimes have had to local kids.
“I think it’s given them an opportunity to get out on a Saturday morning and be with other kids their age. What was great about it was there would be a wide variety of ages that would show up, anything from two to six or seven,” Posey said.
He added that letting the children decide what to read helps them learn and better engage in the books.
“[When] you let their interests drive the event, essentially, it becomes theirs and they own it, and then it’s much more real and much better for them and it becomes their storytime instead of some old guy reading to them,” Posey said. “Hopefully, that’s what they’ll take away from it, is that they’re participants in every story. Hopefully when they go on to become great readers, they’ll invest themselves in the stories.”
Several Saturday storytimes remain until Bank of Books closes up shop.
Clarey and Debby Rudd own two other bookstores in Ventura which will remain open.