Citing the economy, the size of her current store, and the challenge of managing a business six days a week for the last 25 years, Whale of a Tale Children’s Bookshop founder and owner Alexandra Uhl has announced that she will close its current location in Irvine, Calif., and reopen nearby this summer in a smaller space and on a reduced schedule.
“Every good thing comes to an end,” Uhl says, “and it’s time for me to do something different. I’m turning 66 soon, and time is precious. I want to see my grandchildren and family more often.” For starters, she's scaling back from her store’s current size of 2,000 square feet. “I’ve realized that it’s okay not to pay high rent,” Uhl says. “It’s not proportional to our sales any longer.” The new 800-square foot store, which Uhl will begin setting up when she returns from BEA in June, has a storefront that will allow for the author, school, and library events Whale of a Tale is known for. Because it is not located in a mall that dictates the hours and days a retailer must remain open, when Uhl moves to the new location the store’s hours will be limited: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Uhl's friend Robin Preiss Glasser, illustrator of the Fancy Nancy picture book series, will help decorate the new Whale of a Tale and “make it a little fancy,” says Uhl, laughing.
“We’ll still have a good selection of books and host events, but on a smaller scale,” says Uhl, who may partner with Pretend City, a children’s museum in Irvine that is close to Whale of a Tale's new location. “It’s going to be a different model for running the store, but I’m so clear this is the right thing to do that it’s worth the risk. I love what I do. The children who used to come in the store with their parents are now our grown-up customers. I think we’ve had a good impact on them for the last 25 years, and I hope people will find us in our new space.”