Stepping up for Capitola Book Cafe

Financial Meltdown Consumer Price Index
Here’s the debate: Do consumers have a responsibility to support local businesses over chains or on-line retailers, regardless of convenience, selection or price? The Capitola Book Cafe is hoping that its customers will consciously choose to support localism by instituting a membership program designed to keep the bookbuying dollar in town.

The bookselling business — like record stores, and local media — has undergone a dramatic change to its business model in recent years. First came the specter of the big-box retailers undercutting the price points of the independents. Right on the heels of that came the on-line revolution led by Amazon.com. If those two huge factors weren’t enough, then came news of a downward trend generally in adults reading anything at all, and now, again thanks to Amazon.com and its Kindle, an e-book revolution is poised to carve up the market even further.

What do independent bookstores do? They attempt to turn their stores into a community venues and they appeal to people’s sense of local loyalty. That’s a hard sell, considering that American consumers have for decades now become accustomed to put price and convenience over localism. The conscious consumer — the consumer who understands that where he/she spends his/her money has wide repercussions in the life of the community — is not a new creature. But the numbers of those kind of consumers have not been enough to make a critical difference in most communities (Santa Cruzans may not realize it, but Americans still love their Wal-Mart). Still, the smaller bookstores have to be impeccable when it comes to customer service. There is just no margin for error.

Do consumers have the power to preserve local retailers (and thus, local/regional culture)? Watch the Capitola Book Cafe to see.

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10 thoughts on “Stepping up for Capitola Book Cafe

  1. Often it is said that a bookstore’s greatest advantage is that you get instant satisfaction when you want a book. While this may be true, I often find that it is more difficult to find the book you are looking for, especially if you want a more obscure piece.

    The only advantage that I believe book stores have over online competitors is that you can browse the selection more easily.

    I think that if bookstores, especially local bookstores, want to stay competitive they need start offering services that you just can’t get online. For instance, they need to make sure that they focus on the customer service aspect that is often missing or toned-down on online website.

    I’m interesting in hearing what others have to say. What you the rest of you think?

  2. The consumer does not have a responsibility to keep local retailers in business. Those businesses exist to serve the community. If the needs and desires of the community change, then the business models must change in order for the businesses to stay alive and thriving.

    I do not believe that the local book buyers in Capitola should be paying a membership fee in order to supposedly help the Capitola Book Cafe to stay in business. Has the CBC offered to open their accounting records to show their profits and losses? Have they proposed to show the locals what will happen to the membership fees once they are paid and how those membership fees will ensure existence? Are those membership fees a way to plug a hole in their financials for the short term?

    I suspect the current owners bit off much more than they can digest and have a financial mess on their hands. They are looking for what appears to be quick fix. The CBC is undoubtedly a poorly run business and wants a bail-out from the local community. Watch; it won’t happen. If the owners of the CBC want to save their business they have to move their feet and do more to interact with the community to increase actual market share.

  3. Supporting locals is terrific – as long as they are competitive. I remember the hubub about Borders coming in and how it would destroy Bookshop Santa Cruz. Not only didn’t it destroy BS, but they immediately lowered their prices the day Borders opened up – capitalism at its finest!

  4. Local citizens do not have a responsibility to keep local business afloat. It is not our responsibility. They make the choice to go into business. Therefore they obviously have the funds to keep a business in operation even if only for a short time. A expensive membership will not make a differance to their profits. Profit and loss statements have not been addressed. If their business is in trouble, it is not our responsibility to keep them afloat for a few more months. I feel no need to keep overpriced local stores in business, when I can purchase online 4 books for the price of one at a local bookstore. Locally, at any bookstore other then Borders, I have found prices are outragous and selection is poor at best. This is why we buy Borders only or online. The community is not responsible for their financial issues. Better business practices should have been in place. Expecting a bail out from the community is just wrong.

  5. It is the responsibility of the retail bookstore to change and adapt to the current trend of consumers making many of their purchases online and to enhance what IS unique about browsing a bookstore. A great bookstore can be better than attending a movie. It can be a much needed break in a hurried day. I love walking into a bookstore with no title in mind and just seeing what calls out to me. Books are a treasure. A good bookstore is a gem. These experiences cannot be found online.

  6. Bookstores need to come up with other ideas to get and nuture peoples interest.

    More clubs, specialized to different group interests.
    Clubs for- adventure reading, travel, fiction, non-fiction, romance, even for single get togethers.

    Many people are having a hard time meeting other people. Most everyone needs more friends. They need to provide a service that is unique to the area and something people want and need.

    There are many reasons why I buy online- better selection and many, many reviews of the book. Plus better price. So, they need to adjust to the needs of their locals, or they will do poorly.

  7. Wallace, there a quite a few online comments posted under the original article from Sunday. The comments (excluding the random off-topic posts) pretty much answer the question posed here. The consensus seems to indicate that it will take an serious change of attitude and effort from the owners/managers and staff to change things for the better. Let’s hope they will take these opinions seriously and then take the necessary actions to make things better on their part, rather than asking the community to invest in an apparently dysfunctional business model.

  8. Nobody has a responsibility to support anything, but they do have a choice. They have a choice over where their money is going and what it is doing for their community. An optional membership ripe with incentives is nothing new in the business world. And in fact, it is the big corporations that do it the most. Costco makes you pay just to get in the door, Safeway, Starbucks, REI, airlines and lots of coffee shops and restaurants have been offering these kinds of incentives for decades. To assume that this store is poorly managed because it is struggling is absurd. 70% of bookstores in the state have closed down in the last two years, including Cody’s bookstore in Berkeley (after 52 years), Staceys in SF (after 27), and Keplers in Menlo Park (which closed after 40 years and then was saved by a membership drive and community support). The fact that the Capitola Book Cafe is still here at all is huge and a testament to their management and to their wonderful customers. What you have in Santa Cruz is a high density of very vocal hypocritical judgmental narcissistic locals and transplants who think they know it all; who in word support their community but who in deed do not. And when these local stores are gone and they are left with are mega cookie cutter box stores they will bitch about that too. Cause that is what this particular group of Santa Cruzians do best, they whine and they complain and they act like everything and everybody is a hassle. Their level of appreciation for virtually anyone who tries to do something good in our community is marginal at best. If you don’t support your local businesses then you are choosing to give your money to entities that do not support little league teams, sponsor local events or hire your kids. And every dollar spent will quickly leave the community and go to some big mega bank owned by a bunch of foreigners. And kids will grow up not knowing what it’s like to go into an independent book store, or musical instrument store or local sporting good store and learn about things and dream. It’s a choice about what kind of community you want to live in and what kind of example you want to set, and who you want your children’s mentors to be. It is also a choice about how big of a sucker you are, cause once any entity owns most of the distribution the price will go up. The sanctity of the buck above all else is also part of the choice. In any case, it is your choice alone, so don’t blame it on the merchants who are out their risking their security to make it happen. You either give a damn or you don’t so just say it like it is.

  9. The idea that the owners/managers are responsible for the current state of CBC is either true or not true. There is nothing “absurd” about that whatsoever. They own and run the store, no one else. The comments from the members of our community and patrons of CBC in both threads, have in fact pointed out some very palpable weaknesses, which I can only think that a competent management/ownership team would never tolerate and want to correct asap, especially in this economy . It’s absolutely true that there are many other factors, including the current economy, that have hurt this business, as well as others. However, in reading the original story, I got a sense of some glaring shortcomings in the
    staff, and could see clearly an opportunity for some fine tuning internally. That’s all. As far as disrespecting the people of Santa Cruz, no thanks and a bad idea. I’m sure you’ve heard this one, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you”. And as far as playing the guilt game about where our money goes when we spend at a “local” merchants store vs. box stores etc… Maybe it’s time we start asking local merchants to document where they actually spend/invest their /our money. We might just be surprised.

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