San Diego's Blue Door Bookstore is closing after 40 years in business and less than one year under the ownership of Patti DeYoung, a native of Kentucky and a former writing teacher.

The 1,911-sq.-ft. store was well regarded for its eclectic mix of literature, university press books and small press titles, and had been a fixture along 5th Avenue in the hip neighborhood of Hillcrest. The store's founder, William Peccolo, had originally named the store after himself. He found, however, that customers had difficulty pronouncing the name and. after painting the front door a vivid Aegean blue, he renamed it The Blue Door.

DeYoung bought the store in March 2000 from Tom Stoup, who had purchased it from Peccolo's widow in 1988. DeYoung wanted the store to become a community center and began providing space for writing classes, readings and Monday night open mike sessions.

The store was hampered by financial difficulties as early as September. By November, the Blue Door was having trouble paying the rent, and DeYoung sought to renegotiate the lease. In the middle of December, she started advertising the store as being for sale. When the landlord gave her only two weeks at the end of January to find a new buyer, DeYoung felt there was no option but to close.

"I feel sad about losing contact with customers and will miss matching good folks and good books," DeYoung told PW, adding that she thought the store suffered from a combination of factors, including the tripling of energy prices, lack of parking, the degradation of the surrounding neighborhood and the closing of a nearby movie theatre that had generated significant foot traffic.

Still, her experience can be instructive to many booksellers. DeYoung reports that during the 2000 rush on Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Scholastic), she was pleased to discover that she could buy books cheaply at the local Sam's Club, and "they always had it in stock." She advises anyone going into the bookstore business to "have a partner, have an outside income for at least the first three years, do the shift work yourself as much as possible, have experienced people as far as ordering and accounting in your corner."

As for the Blue Door's past-due accounts with suppliers, she said, "Baker & Taylor has been wonderful and responsive. They are absolute sweeties," while "Ingram has been difficult and ugly to deal with. Three weeks after my latest payment, they turned it over to a collection agency."

De Young said she isn't likely to get back into the book business in the near future. As far as her immediate plans, she said, "I'm going to go to France and sit in a field and think about this. Then I'm going to look for work as a copywriter."