One of the longest-standing independent booksellers in San Luis Obispo will close at the end of the month after more than 50 years downtown.
The Novel Experience at 779 Higuera St. will close April 30, owner Jim Hill said, out of “financial necessity.”
“A bricks-and-mortar bookstore selling print-bound books is practically a thing of the past,” said Hill, adding that customers and sales have continued to decline because of online competition and more and more people using e-readers.
“It’s been a gradual decline, but the fact of the matter is that we have not been profiting as a business for a number of years,” Hill said.
Hill, who is the third owner of the bookstore, has owned it for 20 years. During that time, he weathered the opening of two national competitors — Barnes & Noble and Borders — and was able to keep The Novel Experience open while other small, independent booksellers closed their doors.
In 2004, Hill moved the store into a smaller space to try to decrease costs and remain competitive. However, the recession and the shift to digital books has made the business too expensive to keep open, he said.
“Pure stubbornness, faith and blind stupidity or stupid blindness kept me going,” Hill said jokingly.He said his loyalty to the customers led him to keep the store open the past few years even as it lost its profitability.
“I’ve tried to honor the regular customers that kept me going over the years — those loyal locals who support the local community businesses because they virtually comprise the character of a community,” Hill said. “I did everything I could to honor that idea.”
Hill is sharing the news with customers as they come in. Also affected will be Manager Diane Anthony, who has worked at the shop for more than 20 years, and two part-time employees, Hill said. Of Anthony, he said: “Presumably, she will retire.”