Like so many of our local small businesses, Chevalier’s Books at 126 North Larchmont Blvd. has been struggling through the pandemic. Owners Bert Deixler and Darryl Holter sent an email out to customers today asking for their support as the book store faces an existential question of closing or moving to more expensive space when its current lease ends in December.
As if the pandemic wasn’t challenging enough for small businesses on Larchmont, many are struggling under the weight of very expensive leases. For Chevalier’s, staying in its space, where the store has been for decades, isn’t even an option. In May, the new owner of their building, Christina Development, announced extensive renovations for the building and it has refused to extend or renew any leases, despite (according to sources familiar with the matter) initially assuring some tenants they could renegotiate.
Once home to a dozen retail shops, only a handful are now left in the building at 124-148 N. Larchmont Blvd., which was long held by Charlotte Lipson. Lipson’s father, Julius La Bonte, developed Larchmont Blvd. in the 1920s as a commercial street to serve the local neighborhoods. Lipson purposely kept the rents low to preserve her father’s vision of the street. The building was the last parcel La Bonte kept after he sold much of the street to recoup his initial investment. Ironically, the bookstore is located in the space that was La Bonte’s office — the safe is still there, or at least it is for now.
“We’d like to stay in business,” Bert Deixler told the Buzz this morning. “Landlords on Larchmont have an insane notion about what is fair market rent on the street, and we only sell books. It’s not like we can mark them up or charge a cover charge!”
Deixler told us Chevaliers’ email was sent out this morning, and coincidently timed with an editorial by Allison Hill, the CEO of the American Booksellers Association, which was published in today’s Los Angles Times, urging readers to support their local bookstores now before they disappear. A former CEO of Vroman’s Books in Pasadena and Book Soup in Hollywood, Hill knows the struggles bookstores faced before the pandemic forced them to pivot to curbside pickup and virtual events. An internal survey of 400 member stores conducted this summer by the American Booksellers’ Assn. found that many have seen sharp sales declines over last year, and results suggest that some 20% of those surveyed may not survive until January 2021. As Hill wrote:
“If these businesses close, COVID-19 will be listed as the cause of death, but the preexisting condition for many will be Amazon, whose packages have become ubiquitous in apartment building lobbies and on porches across the U.S. Amazon has been boxing out local bookstores and other small businesses all across the country, resulting in the loss of local jobs, local sales tax revenue, and a sense of neighborhood personality, community and tradition. People may not realize the cost and consequences of Amazon’s “convenience” until it’s too late.”
We agree with Hill, who also wrote, “Shopping local now will ensure that the places you love, like the corner bookstore where you met your partner, taught your child to read or discovered the book that changed your life, will still be there in the new year.” And we think that’s true for all our local small businesses.
Here’s the message Chevaliers sent out today about how you can support the business.
Almost six years ago, we took ownership of Chevalier’s Books for ourselves and our community. When people heard we were buying a bookstore, they told us we were nuts—bookstores were going out of business everywhere and besides, “No one reads anymore.”
Naysayers aside, we jumped in with both feet and two checkbooks. We remodeled the store, expanded the inventory ten-fold, and hired the knowledgeable and diligent staff you know and love. In the last six years, we’ve enjoyed hosting authors, serving our neighbors and finding the perfect book for everyone, from newborns to great-grandpas. We’re so proud of what we’ve accomplished and are grateful to all of you for supporting us.
But in March, Covid-19 hit. Like most retailers, our sales fell about 40%. A PPP loan, a dedicated staff and loyal customers kept us just afloat. Then our new landlords announced we would not be able to extend our lease and required us to be out of this space by the end of the year.
So, Chevalier’s Books is now at a crossroads. We’ve located a vacant space on Larchmont that could be a new home for us, but the rent there will be more than double what we currently pay. There will also be significant moving and design costs. It will be a huge financial undertaking for us, made even more daunting by the uncertainty that Covid-19 poses for our business and everybody’s lives.
We are now asking you to help keep Chevalier’s Books a part of the Larchmont community.
As the holiday season approaches, we ask you to consider making us your one-stop-shop for all your bookish needs. Consider buying a gift certificate for yourself or your loved ones, join our Friend’s of Chevalier’s membership program, buy a Chevalier’s t-shirt. If we are all in it together, we can continue to have a first-class independent bookstore in our neighborhood. How rare and wonderful is THAT?
Please let us hear from you at [email protected], or better still in person at the store (as you are buying books, of course)! We’re eager to hear any ideas you might have to help Chevalier’s remain and prosper.
Bert & Darryl
and your beloved Chevalier’s staff
How can you support Chevalier’s Books?
- Buy a gift certificate.
- Buy a Friend’s of Chevalier’s Books membership.
- Request a book and pick it up at Chevalier’s.
- Pre-order Barack Obama’s upcoming memoir.
- Buy Chevalier’s Books merchandise.
- Shop online through Bookshop.org/shop/chevaliersbooks
We are doing our part to help out with a free ad on our website, so you can be reminded every time you visit the Buzz. Chevalier’s proudly proclaims it is LA’s oldest independent bookstore, bBorn right here on Larchmont Blvd. in 1940. Let’s help keep it here.