Photos courtesy of the Apostrophe Books Facebook page.
After six years of business on Second Street and 23 years as a bookstore, Apostrophe Books is set to close February 6, according to the owners, puncturing a hole in the hearts of independent bookstore lovers in Long Beach and beyond.
In an interview with the Post, co-owner Lisa Somerville said slow foot traffic on Belmont Shore throughout 2015 made it impossible to continue the business.
“Foot traffic slowed down for a lot of merchants in Second Street in 2015, and it didn’t pick up,” she said. “If we had the capital to continue the store, we would.”
A Facebook post dated January 14 and also posted on their Second Street storefront said it all.
“We sure don’t want to close...bookselling is in our DNA, but must. We won’t ever forget you, our loyal customers. And we will miss each and every one of you.”
Somerville and co-owner Valerie Kingsland started their store in the small Victorian tourist town of Port Townsend, Washington. Twelve years after opening, they decided to bring their business to Southern California and move back to their native Long Beach. Because no storefront space was available in the location they desired in Long Beach, they operated two stores, one in Hollywood and one in Pasadena, until the space opened up on Second Street in 2010.
Business has been consolidated to the Second Street location ever since, even following a move from West Second Street, near La Strada, to their current location across from Legends Sports Bar.
“This is the heart of Belmont Shore,” said Somerville. “Sales were great. We were sure we made the right choice. But then foot traffic slowed down ourselves as well as other vendors.”
Somerville made it clear she believed the slowing traffic was not due to the now-digitized nature of the book industry.
“A lot of people think that’s what caused this—Amazon/e-books. The truth is the more books we cram into the store the more we sell, especially kids’ books.”
Somerville described a parent reading to their child from a Kindle. “How intimate is that?”
In the meantime, the closure of the bookstore has been one the owners have taken up with heavy hearts. There will be no more book club meetings, Casual Comedy Friday, or Saturday Story Time.
“Customers were crying; we were crying with them,” Somerville said.
The future, for Somerville and Kingsland is not quite clear. They may move back to the Northwest; they may stay here. Somerville said they were focused simply on closing the shop.
In the meantime, Apostrophe's closure means the number of independent bookstores in Long Beach is pretty much down to just a few, according to a cursory Google search: Gatsby Books (5535 East Spring Street), Planet Books (3917 East Anaheim Street) and Once Read Books (5422 East Village Road).
“Some of us indies who don’t have deep pockets—this is what happens,” she said. “We’re just hoping that someone opens up another independent bookstore. There’s a need for it.”