News - May 23, 2012

Kepler's launches fundraising campaign

by Sandy Brundage

Taking Kepler's Books into its new phase of life will cost money, and the transition team behind the revisioning of the iconic bookstore hopes the community will help make it happen.

Team leader Praveen Madan, a partner of Booksmith in San Francisco and Berkeley Arts and Letters, said that the first step in breathing new life into the bookstore was getting rid of a lot of old debt — about $1 million dragging the store's accounts into the negative. The team also figured out how to streamline operations, and now has a store already running "slightly better than break even."

The clean slate lets the team concentrate on creating a for-profit, community-owned-and-operated bookstore alongside a nonprofit organization offering author appearances, lectures, educational workshops and other events.

And that's where the fundraising comes in. According to Mr. Madan, the campaign has already received commitments of about $400,000 from prominent Silicon Valley donors, who prefer to remain anonymous for now. To keep Kepler's open and proceed with revitalization, the team needs to raise an additional $250,000 from the community by June 15, with a goal of raising more than $1 million by the end of summer.

Mr. Madan said improving the store's inventory is high on the list. "The single biggest complaint I've heard is 'people want to see more books,'" he said. "The inventory has become very lean, but that basically happened because the company didn't have any money. What little money it had went towards paying off debt."

Kepler's also wants to focus on increasing and expanding events. "We're emphasizing the social experiences a bookstore creates, the ability to bring people together, not to sell books but as a way to meet other people," Mr. Madan said. "When you're looking for a place to go to have intelligent conversations with other people, a bookstore is the place to go. No one goes to a bar for intelligent conversation."

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