One of the greatest charms of Cortland Avenue is the way Bernal’s commercial district feels adrift in time — a 1940s vision of Main Street USA, but with much better food and electric bicycles.
There’s definitely some truth to that impression, but it is a fragile illusion. Cortland feels adrift in time, but it is not immune to larger forces of change. Those forces recently claimed the venerable Four Star Video, and today we learned that they will also take the much-loved Red Hill Books.
Yet much like Four Star, we learn that Red Hill will half-disappear, and half-evolve into something new. Red Hill Books manager Jeremy Hatch explains:
I wanted to share with you all the sign we just put in our window, which I’ve included in full below. But to summarize: unfortunately, we’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that we can no longer sustain a full, general-interest bookstore here in Bernal, but we love the neighborhood too much to leave, so we’re going to try something new. We’re planning to close down Red Hill Books per se at the end of the year, and in January, transform the space into a sort of co-op similar to 331 Cortland. We’ll remain as one of the businesses in the co-op — we’re planning to open a new store, focused on children and young readers, in our part of the space. This (a children’s store) is something we’ve been talking about doing for a long time, so we’re excited to give it a try! We’re planning to call the new store Chickadee.
Right now, we’re just starting the search for interested business people to join us. We’ve gotten a few informal proposals, but we’re looking for more, and I’m hoping you’ll highlight that on the blog. Our minds are open, and we’re willing to enter into short term agreements (of say 3 months) just to test things out.
Here are additional details, as described in the sign that’s now in the window of Red Hill Books:
First of all: we’re not leaving!
However, we do need to change what we’re doing. We’ve had increasing financial difficulty over the past few years and we can’t continue the way we have been. We love Bernal as much as you do, though, and we want to stick around, so we’re planning to transform ourselves after the New Year in two ways: first, we’re going to become more focused on children’s books and events; second, we want to create a co-op-type space like 331, with several other small businesses. Here are the details on each idea:
A NEW STORE WITH A NEW FOCUS
We’ve noticed that, with the growing numbers of young families here on the Hill, our strongest category of sales, day in and day out, is books for children and young readers. So we’ve decided to take the hint and try something we’ve been contemplating for a long time anyway: create a store with a focus on books and other products for children and parents. We’re thinking of calling it Chickadee.
There are a few things you should know about this transition:
- At this time, we plan to continue to stock a small selection of adult books – we’ll definitely have the latest best sellers, parenting books, and some periodicals, for example — but we’ll be using the same distributor as we do now, and we’ll remain connected to our sister stores, Phoenix Books, Dog Eared Books, and Alley Cat Books, so you will be able to order any title you want from us.
- We’re working on a nice website where you will be able to order books from us online, at your convenience. Beyond new books, we’re talking about bringing our entire catalog of sale books online as well. And we also plan to offer direct home delivery of your orders within Bernal Heights.
- If you have store credit, that credit will continue to be honored here and at our sister stores.
- All Bernal Bucks earned at Red Hill will be honored at Chickadee
- If you’re interested in trading more books here, you should be aware that through the end of 2012 we’re going to be selective about the adult titles we take – recent best-sellers and titles we know the other stores could use. For Chickadee, we’ll mostly be interested in children’s books.
SHARED SPACE – PROPOSALS WANTED
Chickadee won’t require as much space as we have today, so, inspired by the example of 331 Cortland, we’re planning to share our building with other small businesses — we are looking for proposals, and our minds are open. (Of course, your idea would have to work well with a kids-oriented bookstore.) If you have an idea, or know someone who might, please talk to us!
PHOTO: Telstar Logistics