Kepler’s, Iconic Bay Area Independent Bookstore, Launches Transition to Next-Generation Literary Venture
Kepler’s 2020 Project Kicks Into High Gear to Drive Literary Innovation on SF Peninsula
Menlo Park, CA, January 31, 2012 – The Kepler’s Transition Team, a group of local business and community leaders, today announced the launch of “Kepler’s 2020,” an initiative that will transform Menlo Park’s historic independent bookstore into a next-generation community literary and cultural center. The project aims to create an innovative hybrid business model that includes a for-profit, community-owned-and-operated bookstore, and a nonprofit organization that will feature on-stage author interviews, lectures by leading intellectuals, educational workshops and other literary and cultural events.
By separating the for-profit bookstore from the nonprofit organization, Kepler’s 2020 will allow the bookstore to maximize its profitability while enabling the community to support rich educational and cultural programming through tax-deductible donations and corporate sponsorships. The two organizations, although separate legal entities, will collaborate closely to bring people together around ideas and books to foster intellectual discourse and civic engagement in the community.
Led by literary entrepreneur Praveen Madan, a volunteer transition team has begun work on a comprehensive development, financial and operational plan for the iconic bookstore. Plans include turning the bookstore into a community-owned organization.
Among the innovations being considered for the bookstore are publishing-on-demand capabilities and an e-book friendly in-store browsing experience; concierge services to provide “literary matchmaking” for customers, book swaps and other innovative programs to bring people of all ages together around their shared love of books; and a speaker’s bureau with readership development services for emerging authors.
The nonprofit organization will enable Kepler’s to preserve and expand its longtime role as a literary and cultural hub on the San Francisco Peninsula. It will produce and promote a rich range of community events, such as literary panels and roundtables, workshops, seminars, and on-stage conversations with established and emerging authors.
The transition team has started engaging Kepler’s customers and community members through surveys, interviews, and workshops to gain additional insights about programs and services that will help drive the Kepler’s 2020 project.
“The traditional model of retail bookselling appears headed for extinction,” said Praveen Madan. “Now, more than ever, communities need accessible physical spaces where people come together to share their love of stories, ideas and culture. Kepler's 2020 is a strategic move to reposition a strong community bookstore to embrace industry trends and new technologies, instead of resisting them. Our goal is to make Kepler's the prototype community bookstore of the future."
A former management consultant and high-tech executive, Madan became a literary entrepreneur in 2007 when he and his wife and business partner, Christin Evans, acquired and transformed the independent Booksmith bookstore in San Francisco. In 2009 he teamed with Cody’s Books’ long-term events director Melissa Mytinger to launch the Booksmith-affiliated speaker series, Berkeley Arts & Letters.
The Kepler’s 2020 project plans to launch a capital campaign for the nonprofit entity with a goal of raising funds from corporate sponsors, foundations and individual donors. Kepler’s existing Literary Circle Membership program will remain an important source of funding for the bookstore. The 2012 Kepler’s Literary Circle membership campaign will be launched in February and is seeking to raise an additional $100,000 to support ongoing operation of the bookstore.
"A vibrant downtown Menlo Park depends on premiere gathering places that engage the community," said Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith. "Kepler's is a treasure that attracts people from the wider Peninsula area to Menlo Park, and the City is delighted with these innovative plans to reinvent Kepler's as a literary and cultural destination. It is encouraging to see the local community rallying to support the transition to Kepler’s 2020, and I fully support these efforts.”
Transition team members are volunteers and function as an advisory board. In addition to Madan, team members include Gail Slocum, former mayor of Menlo Park; Mitch Slomiak, Kepler’s CFO; Jean Forstner, director of community affairs at Kepler’s; Steve Piersanti, president of Berrett-Koehler Publishers; Beth Morgan, marketing consultant; and Patrick Corman, communications consultant. Clark Kepler, who has served as the bookstore’s CEO since 1981, is retiring on January 31 but will participate in the transformation project in his capacity as Kepler’s board chair and transition team member.
Additional organizations and individuals contributing their time and expertise include Christin Evans, co-owner of Booksmith and Berkeley Arts & Letters; Morrison & Foerster LLP; the Silicon Valley Community Foundation; Howard Bailey, former CFO and high-tech corporate board member; Pushpendra Mohta, serial entrepreneur; Daniel Mendez and Vivian Leal, Kepler’s Patrons; Preston Butcher, Kepler’s Patron; Mark Melbye, Kidder Mathews; Robert Kyle, Kepler’s Patron; Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith; Menlo Park Mayor Pro Tem Peter Ohtaki; Menlo Park City Council member Kelly Fergusson; and Jeff Chow, Kepler’s Community Champion and Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.
To learn more about the Kepler’s 2020 project, or to become a Literary Circle member, visit www.keplers2020.com.
Founded in 1955, Kepler’s has been deeply entrenched in the local community. Since 2005 when it was saved from closing by the community, the bookstore has sold approximately 2 million books, generated $33 million in revenue, and paid $3 million in sales tax, most of which has gone back to the local community. During that time, this beloved bookstore has held approximately 2,000 author events and raised more than $200,000 for 120 neighborhood schools and nonprofit organizations. Noted authors including Amy Sedaris, Caroline Kennedy, and George R.R. Martin have sold out ticketed events, each attended by more than 1,000 people, to help support organizations such as Family and Children Services, Breast Cancer Connections, and the Peninsula College Fund. With its transition, Kepler’s is stepping up to a new level of community engagement and sustainability. For additional information, visit www.keplers2020.com.
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