Heather Moran knew it was only a matter of time. Since July 14, when Crown Books Corp. filed for bankruptcy reorganization, the store manager of the Malibu branch quietly had been telling clientele to place their final orders. Quickly. A few weeks later, she stopped taking special orders altogether.
The call for closure was issued Aug. 20, after a Delaware judge granted approval for the chain to shutter 79 of its 174 stores, including 11 in Los Angeles County. From the corporate throne in Landover, Md., the edict was phoned to Crown’s provinces in four states.
“I got a call from our district manager around 3 p.m. Thursday; we closed the doors at 4,” said Moran. “We should be here for another week or two, cleaning and packing up.”
Moran will be offered a job within the district, which extends from Malibu to Westminster and east to Riverside. Most of her nine employees can expect severance packages. While the Thousand Oaks outlet falls a casualty of economic woes, the Santa Monica SuperCrown remains open.
“All outstanding orders have been transferred to Santa Monica, who have been instructed to hold them for two weeks, and our customers have been phoned,” said Moran.
With book signings and special events, the superstore has one of the highest profiles in the region. Local authors who depended upon the Malibu branch for exposure of their new works now may find themselves holding court in Santa Monica.
Whether the branch perished due to lack of profitability or whether it was surrendered to escape a costly lease is moot. Malibu is bereft of a general bookstore. In April 1997, the literary community mourned the loss of Malibu Books & Co., which had served readers for nearly 20 years. Although Crown could not hope to assume the intimacy or salon ambience of Valerie Gable’s shop, it was something. Something now gone.
Sharing the plight of many independent stores, Malibu Books & Co. could not compete with discounters such as Barnes & Noble, Borders Group, and Crown, who traditionally have negotiated extended payment terms on publishers’ shipments, and who have been able to absorb the costs of shipping back remaindered stock. Additionally, the chains have enjoyed cooperative advertising with publishers in the forms of in-store promotions, end-cap displays, flyers and newspaper ads.