Feature: The History Behind the Mystery: Kepler’s
No one seems to fully understand the reasoning behind the closure and reopening of Kepler’s bookstore, located in Menlo Park. After closing for the summer, the bookstore was back in business on October 16th, as a new legal entity and with many modern improvements.
Roy Kepler originally founded the bookstore to support his family during World War II, which he refused to participate in as an anti-violence supporter. His son, Clark Kepler, took over the store in 1980, and after 31 years, handed the store over to Praveen Madan and Christin Evans, who were both experienced in the bookstore business and familiar with Kepler’s.
Upon assuming the role of owners at Kepler’s, Madan and Evans became aware of the economic hardships that bookstores encounter in the digital age. “Kepler’s was struggling financially,” Evans reported.
In order to begin to deal with this challenging competitor, Madan and Evans decided to close the store over the summer when Kepler retired. They wanted to use the time to layout their plan to make the bookstore a sustainable business.
The solution to this, they believed, was to “turn part of its operations, including the events program, into a non-profit,” said Evans.
Over the summer, they worked to construct the new legal description for the store, and “we also conducted a community workshop,” Evans added, “to talk about what should stay the same and what needs to change.” Those changes included new computer systems, new books, new staff, and a new store layout.
The two are also striving to replicate the mindset of the original founder, Roy Kepler, in the new store.
“Kepler wouldn’t be shy about stocking books that other bookstores didn’t carry at the time,” Evans explained, “so we are channeling the bookstore’s radical and countercultural past and making it current for today.”
However, along with the new “Kepler’s Digital Labs,” and electronic revival, the store still holds many printed books. The owners continue to retain their primary goal of “creating a space to discover new books,” as Evans put it.
“In the end, that’s what its all about, really great books and the people who write and read them,” Evans concluded.
For those of you who love to find new literature or are looking for a friendly environment to hang out in, stop by Kepler’s to enjoy the new improvements with the same warm bookstore feeling.