Goodenough Books in Livermore, Calif., about 40 miles east of San Francisco, has been put up for sale by owner Susan Mayall. The 4,300-square-foot store opened in 1980 and serves the small community of scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the surrounding wine region.
"It's a nice bookstore, and we have what you would find in any good independent bookstore," said Mayall. "We're in a downtown area without a lot of foot traffic, so we're definitely a destination store. The town is where the H-bomb was created, and it's a combination cattle and science town in a area that produces excellent wine." Mayall said the store is especially well known for literary luncheons held at wineries.
Goodenough has three full-time staff members, including a floor manager and a buyer. Annual revenue hovers around the $900,000 mark, and the asking price is $350,000.
Mayall is leaving the book business to write and spend time with her nine grandchildren. She said that while the sour economy has contributed to her decision, it was not the major factor. "I'm about to be 70. I've been at this for 23 years, and it's time for a change really," she said. "If it had really been like it was seven or 10 years ago, I might have been less anxious. I still think there's a future for independent booksellers, though it does get harder all the time."
Her advice is to "go smaller rather than larger: go cozy, friendly and specialized according to what you see as [customers'] tastes." '
Potential buyers who might be concerned about the proximity of the nuclear laboratory need not worry, Mayall told PW. "This was founded by Edward Teller to form a counterbalance to Los Alamos. While many people liberal on domestic affairs can be rather conservative on international affairs, that is changing." Accordingly, the store sells numerous science books, with Richard Rhodes's Dark Sun and The Making of the Atomic Bomb (both Touchstone) particularly popular.
It should also come as no surprise that one of the store's all-time bestsellers is Hugh Gusterson's nuclear anthropological study of the Livermore lab: Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War (Univ. of California). "We've sold hundreds of that one," said Mayall.
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