The Laurel Book Store said goodbye to its longtime home has a big hello for downtown Oakland.
Laurel Book Store heads to downtown Oakland with help from Indiegogo.
For Laurel Book Store owner Luan Stauss, leaving her place of business on MacArthur Boulevard after 13 years is bittersweet. She’s trading the comfort of her 900-square-foot space for a 3,900-square-foot site in downtown Oakland, with entrances at 1423 Broadway and 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza. Laurel will be the first general interest bookstore to open in downtown Oakland since the closing of the Jack London Square Barnes & Noble in 2010.
It’s an exciting, yet daunting, move. To help defray the moving expenses and other miscellaneous costs, Stauss instituted a month-long crowdfounding campaign via Indiegogo.com, asking for $50,000 in donations. The money raised was earmarked for unexpected construction costs, new fixtures, and new computer/purchasing systems. (Other Bay Area bookstores have tried crowdfunding with varying degrees of success, including Diesel Books on College Avenue, which started its $80,00 campaign the day after Laurel’s concluded.)
Stauss is well acquainted with the ups and downs of the independent bookstore business. “Business was really good and steadily increasing up until and through 2011,” she says, but then 2012 brought the closing of the Lucky Supermarket across the street and its replacement by a discount supermarket in the chain. Stauss says that many of the businesses along that section of the boulevard suffered, and her own sales decreased immediately.
“That’s when I really started looking around,” Stauss says. “I realized that I had two years on my lease and that I should either go out of business, expand, move or do something [else] to keep it going.”
Stauss began to look at locations in the Laurel District, the Dimond District, and in Uptown proper. Eventually, her real estate agents steered her to the downtown site, formerly the First National Bank Building, now known as the Lionel Wilson Building, close to the 12th Street BART Station.
“It was bigger than I anticipated, but what a prime location,” Stauss says. “I figured I had better jump at it.”
Stauss had applied for a loan through the Oakland Business Development Corporation but soon saw that there were expenses she hadn’t counted on. That led to the crowdfunding campaign. Stauss says she chose Indiegogo because, unlike Kickstarter, its payment method doesn’t work through Amazon. Indiegogo also offers both full and flexible payment plans
“They take a little extra if we don’t make our goal,” Stauss says. “But you get most of the money you’ve raised.
Stauss says she had two reasons for crowdfunding. “First, to raise some capital for the extra moving expenses and labor. But also to get the word out. It’s a great marketing tool and a way to thank our customers.”
Stauss currently has two employees and plans to add four or five additional part-time workers. She hopes to offer more gift items for sale and increase the inventory of general fiction and mystery titles. The new store will also offer more room for author readings and signings.
After 31 days, Stauss ended up collecting 54 percent of her goal. Not a complete victory, but a decent start in getting the new storefront ready for its fall grand opening.
“It’s going to be hard to leave [MacArthur Boulevard],” Stauss says. “And yet I’m excited to be coming here [to Uptown], where it’s a whole new adventure.”