1981

Lorna and I opened Mind Snack Bookstore in Long Beach, California in 1981.  The stock was mainly paperbacks and our niche was the special order/booksearch business.  We have several loyal customers but we struggled to pay the rent.  We closed the store when the one-year lease ended but continued  a mail order booksearch business for many years.  I wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times Book Review section that was published under the title "A Quiet Day in a Browse Store."  When I find my copy of the article, I will put it right here.  [JAM 2/26/2009]

[I still have not found the article but the following are my notes that I took on 8/8/1981 - JAM 8/13/2009]

9:55     Open for business. Cash drawer OK ($82.11)
10:10   "Grouch" passes by - non-bookbuyer - came in one day after we opened and suggested that we carry things other than books
10:15    First customer - "just looking" - bought Louis Lamour book - middle-aged woman - said that we should advertise
10:40    Call (friend) special order - second customer came in while I was on the phone - asked for book not listed in B.I.P. - no sale (young woman)
11:10    Mr. Weidman waves
11:25    Mail - telephone bill & one catalog
11:55    "Mr. 500 Words" on the bus bench (with backpack)
12:05    Man arrives on bicycle - "hands in pocket" browser
12:10    Window washer - I tell him that we do our own
12:20    Mr. Weidman again
12:30    Window browser
1:25      Young male customer - browsed in sf - no sale
1:55      Lorna arrives with Cameron, who is asleep.  We put Cameron on the couch in the back room for his nap.  Lorna is due at a friend's wedding.
2:15      Frances Smith, librarian, came in to see about a book that she ordered
3:05      Young woman - no sale
3:20      Mr. 500 Words back from his hike
4:00      Young man - bought 1/2 price sf, Hunter Thompson's "Fear & Loathing in LV" and Stephen King's "Night Shift"
4:40      Cameron is awake
4:50      Ivah - she has been to Crown Books
5:00      Cameron needs his diaper changed
5:30      Talbott
5:35      Browsers (male) - no sale
5:55      Ivah bought one book and ordered two
6:00      Changed diaper
6:10      Closed - $11.10 in sales + $48.95 in orders - ten "in store" customers

 

[Following are significant events that occurred in the one-year life of Mind Snack Bookstore.]

January 3, 1981 - signed lease
January 23, 1981 - picked up books and racks at UBS
January 31, 1981 - Grand Opening
February 21, 1981 - IPT ads start
March 1, 1981 - mentioned in Book Notes; inventory: 4,522
April 5, 1981 - mentioned in Book Review
April 27, 1981 - topped opening day sales
May 15, 1981 - Crown Books opened
May 21, 1981 - IPT ads end
June 20, 1981 - started summer hours
July 1, 1981 - Ingram refuses delivery
July 2, 1981 - inventory: 4,285
August 2-6, 1981 - vacation
August 8, 1981 - slow day of article for Book Review, Los Angeles Times
August 14, 1981 - equaled April 27 sales
August 31, 1981 - best day; one customer bought 37 books
September 21, 1981 - decided not to renew lease
January ?, 1982 - Grand Closing

[Following are some notes we took during our bookstore experience.]

On January third, 1981, my wife and I signed a one-year lease at 4135 Anaheim Street in Long Beach, California.  The "shop" was one-third of what was once a telescope factory (Cave Optical).  1,440 square feet at approximately $0.40 per square foot per month ($595 rent).

The shop was not quite ready for books.  There were some obstacles:
    1. No front door
    2. A floor-to-ceiling partition 12 feet from where the door should have been
    3. No lights
    4. A partially tiled floor
    5. The W.R. Parks Co., a lens-grinding concern, still occupying the back of the shop

Our neighbor to the east, in an identical shop, was Pacific Multigraphics - a print shop leased since October 1980 but not yet open.  The corner shop was leased to Strictly Custom Tile in March 1981.

The next four weeks we worked nights and weekends to make a bookstore out of a factory.  The first major problem was the partition, a wooden structure 18 feet wide and 12 feet high.  Our landlord hired a carpenter and the three of us decided to move it in one piece.  Once the supports were cut away, the three of us started to move the partition to one side of the shop and found ourselves in a struggle with a mass of plywood and one-by-fours that was trying to come crashing down upon us.  After about 30 minutes of grunting, lifting, straining and rapid heartbeats, we finally maneuvered the beast to a wall, blocked it, and went looking for at least three more guys.  With three more men, we moved the partitions into place at the back of the shop to give us a small back room where our 2-year-old son (Cameron) could take his naps.  Later that day, I noticed that my gold wedding band had been bent into an ellipse.  I had to use pliers to get it off my finger.

It was now that our landlord dropped his first bombshell: "Oh by the way, the carpenter forgot to pick up a pre-hung door for the partition.  Could you go out and buy one?  I'm only paying him until noon."  With that short notice, the only pre-hung door I could find was $79 and solid birch.  So we had a plywood partition with a birch door - and we still had to tiptoe through the lens-grinder's area (and not get dust on anything.

In the next two weeks we painted, hung lights, finally got a front door, finally moved the lens-grinder and began our last major, pre-opening project - the floor.  Except for 12 feet of carpet in the front, the floor consisted of patches of bare concrete and four different colors and sizes of tile in various conditions of disrepair.  Some had been under heavy machinery and some had had a brick-red, chalky liquid poured onto it.  Our landlord had told us: "I'll provide the tile, you provide the labor."

Lorna and I tried many methods of tile-removal, but the only method that worked was hammer-and-chisel-on-your-knees.  Each stroke of the hammer produced a tile chip about the size of a Susan B. Anthony dollar that flew into the air and struck the wall or the back of my shirt or my socks.  Lorna and I each have a complete wardrobe with matching black-and-yellow mastic spots.

We had told our friends and family that we would be open on Saturday, January 31.  Our books and unassembled bookracks were stored in the back room.  We chipped night and day for a week until Monday, five days before opening.  I came into the shop to chip tile and found our landlord waist-deep in a trench in the middle of our floor (between "science fiction" and "mystery").  He said: "I had to find the sewer line to connect to the corner shop.  Sorry."  He eventually extended the trench straight through the print shop. 

We opened January 31, as advertised, with the trench covered with boards.  We never did put in a tile floor.