UPDATE, JUNE 8, 11:30 AM: I've been out of town the past few days, so I just heard the bad news: Laguna Beach's beloved Latitude 33 Bookshop is closing. There's a letter on the bookstore's website from owner Tom Ahern that pretty much makes clear there's no hope the store will be sold in time to prevent its closure. “I tried hard to find a buyer for the store, to keep a good bookstore in Laguna,” Ahern wrote. “Nineteen parties expressed interest, but none came through with an offer. It is extremely painful for me, but I have concluded that the only choice is to close Latitude 33 Bookshop before the end of August.”
Ahern's letter notes that there's a 20 percent-off sale going on, and even the store's custom wood bookshelves are up for grabs. “We hope that you will come back in and take advantage of the sale,” he continued. “We'd love to sell our entire stock sooner than the end of August. We will both win. Thanks for supporting Latitude 33 over the past 15 years.”
ORIGINAL POST, APRIL 12, 12:00 PM: One of Orange County's most notable independent booksellers and a mainstay of Laguna Beach's cultural scene, Latitude 33 Bookshop,
is for sale. The news arrived in my in-box this morning in the form of a
store newsletter. “After 15 years of running the Bookshop, I–Tom Ahern, owner of Latitude 33–am announcing that I retire.”
In his farewell note, Ahern explains his reasons for stepping aside. “I turn 70 this year, and my wife has health problems that require more attention than I can give while still running the store,” he writes. “I don't want to shut the doors: Hopefully, a book-lover or a group of book-lovers will take over and keep Latitude 33 running.”
Ahern appears to be pursuing the same strategy that unfolded in the past year at Politics and Prose, the renowned Washington, D.C., indie bookstore. When one of the owners died last year, her partner successfully solicited interested buyers who banded together to keep the store going. As Ahern notes in his goodbye note, the store's new owners took over March 28. “While Latitude 33 is not in the stratospheric league of Politcs and Prose, it has been the center of the literary life of Laguna Beach for the past 15 years.” (Full disclosure: I, like hundreds of other writers, was lucky enough to do a reading for my book Orange Sunshine at the store last summer.)
“I have the best staff ever: two former Barnes & Noble branch managers and three incredible book-lovers,” he argues, adding that a new owner would have the ability to take over the space inside the shop that Ahern has been renting to Silver Images, a photography studio.
“There is a future for service-intensive independent bookstores, as the megastore chains decline,” Ahern concludes. “Much can be done to help Latitude 33 do even better, but recently, I have not had the time and energy to implement them.”
Anyone interested in purchasing the store should either leave a note for Ahern at the store or contact him at email@example.com.