Friday, May 19, 2006

Cody's Books on Telegraph shuts their doors

I'm not of the reporting type, so this isn't a news flash or anything. That said, it's a sad day for lovers of independent bookstores in the Bay Area.... Cody's Books announced last week that they were closing down their store on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.

This isn't the demise of Cody's as an institution though.... apparently they're prospering just fine with their stores down on the posh Fourth Street strip and at a scrubby new locale in downtown San Francisco. The sad part is that Cody's is a Berkeley institution, an massive oasis of books and magazines amidst the grungy one-of-a-kind fervor of Telegraph Avenue. I was never down by Fourth Street for any reason (the bus took too damn long to get there, and that location always feels strangely deserted), so the Telegraph store was the place to go. This is certainly one of my favorite places to peruse books of all kinds (not only do they have an impressive collection of fiction and short story anthologies and lit mags, but also a film theory section that's yet to be matched by my eyes); the selection that they have just can't be found at Barnes & Noble or Borders. That, and it's one of the only places I know that still carries new issues of Wrapped in Plastic magazine.

What exactly has become of Telegraph Avenue as Berkeley's main drag? Business have started to jump ship over the last three years, and no matter how many American Apparels you open up, it feels like something's gone missing. If anything, Cody's is one of the last bastiens of Berkeley's literary culture, and now that it's being plucked from the university's periphery the town is being depleted of a much-needed asset. Who wants to trudge down to Fourth Street to see quality readings? Even that nice flower stand, a fixture outside of Cody's, will likely crumble in its absence. It won't, however, affect the business of that guy who sells patches from those giant plastic bins in front of Amoeba Music. Without a strong bookseller near the university, the legacy of Cody's is left to the masses in downtown San Francisco (I'm not sure they can maintain the same charm when setting up shop next door to the Virgin Megastore) and the yuppie/hippies (or "yippies".... thanks Josh) of the bourgeois North Berkeley Chez Panisse Sunday brunch crowd.

I'm sad to see it go.


Josh Kellogg said...

Yes, it is a sad time. Berkeley's mayor is trying to revitalize the area, with a a new plan.
Not sure if it will work, but I loathe having to tread down to 4th Street. It has picked up a lot of business over the years, but parking is a bitch usually (weekends, definitely) and it is not as friendly as other parts, being more upscale than is comfortable. Oh well, I guess it is time to suck it up and roll out to Green Apple books or City Lights in S.F.

is that so wrong? said...

Hopefully it's not too-little-too-late with regards to "revitalizing" Telegraph.... but it's worth a shot.

Another great bookstore in San Francisco: Booksmith, in the Upper Haight. It's no Cody's on Telegraph, though.

Writeprocrastinator said...

"Another great bookstore in San Francisco: Booksmith, in the Upper Haight. It's no Cody's on Telegraph, though."

The one thing that I do love about Booksmith is that they always book my favorite authors and authors of note. Unfortunately more often then not, they do it on the nights I have to work.