Big rent hike puts long-time Westside bookstore on the clock to find new home
The last commercial bookstore on the Westside, it has until May 31 to find a new location. That's when its lease runs out at the Red Rock Canyon shopping center in the 3100 block of West Colorado Avenue. Owners Arthur and Kelly Klipple decided to move after shopping center owner JFR Co. told them that a new lease would mean a rent hike of more than 25 percent, to $5,000 a month.
“Those are Denver prices,” Kelly said. “We're already operating at a loss. We cannot stay here.”
Arthur first came to the Bookman as an employee in 2005. He and Kelly decided to buy it three years later. This fulfilled a life-long goal of his to own a bookstore, Kelly said.
The store specializes in used books, stacked on section after section of tall shelves. Two cats, Mr. Gray and Mr. Blue, roam quietly about. There's a feel of the pre-Internet era, when books, not electronic devices, were what people held in their hands for knowledge.
The previous owner was Eric Verlo, who opened the store where it is now - in the building between Safeway and Walgreens - in May 1991.
Patti Mulkey, who has worked at the store nearly every year since then, estimates the collection now at 100,000 to 125,000 books, comprising a “full range” of fiction and non-fiction subject matter.
The Klipples hope to relocate the Bookman somewhere on the Westside (or in Ivywild, which is just to the southeast). They also want to downsize from the current 3,000 square feet. The ideal would be to a 2,000-square-foot unit with a lease of $1,800 to $2,000 a month. This information appears on flyers being given to store customers, asking for their help in the quest. “If you are out in the world and see space that would be a match, please call immediately at 719-636-0055 or contact the owners, Arthur and Kelly Klipple, at 719-339-3027,” the flyer text reads.
The text also points out that the Klipples are willing to sell the business to anyone who may have “always dreamed of owning a store.”
When they bought the Bookman, they never expected it to be lucrative, although it did break even at first, Kelly said. In recent years, with the economic recession and more readers seeking electronic reading matter, red ink has become the rule rather than the exception.
The Klipples have added a service, selling some inventory through Amazon, but that has only helped to a point, Kelly explained.
To make up the difference, she and her husband have been working other jobs. She has a therapy business, and for now Arthur is employed at a steel mill in his home state of New York.
Adding to the difficulties, homeless camps often sprout along Fountain Creek behind the shopping center, leading to trash and petty crimes. The store tries to be helpful, giving any interested campers books from their dollar rack, but in an incident this winter, excrement was smeared across the back of the building, according to Mulkey.
Kelly expressed appreciation for her employees, who she said aren't highly paid but show an “amazing love” for the store. She praised her manager, Steffany Boucher, for making the space “look better than it ever has.”
Regardless of where or how the Bookman winds up, Kelly expressed a determination that it should continue. She said she's even open to a better offer from JFR Co., but she's pessimistic that will happen.
(The Westside Pioneer called the company, but was told its policy is not to discuss private contracts.)
So what happens if May 31 comes and the Bookman has no home... or no buyer with a dream? What Arthur and Kelly have decided in such a case is that “the vast majority of the collection will go into storage,” she outlined. “The store would come to an end, at least temporarily.”
But a permanent closure? She said no. The search would still continue. Even a smaller, “stepping-stone location” would be acceptable,” she noted. “Arthur and I feel a responsibility to the community to keep this place going.”
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