Editor’s Word: The Biz Beat is a collection highlighting native small companies and eating places in Silicon Valley.
Sitting comfortably in an aisle of Hicklebee’s bookstore, Calvin, 11, shares a guide together with his 9-year-old brother, Malcolm. The boys look proper at house, which isn’t stunning since their mother Emily Liu-Elizabeth has been bringing them there since they had been born.
Liu-Elizabeth herself has come to the store since she was a bit of woman.
“Bookstores are locations for teenagers to return the place they really feel protected,” she stated, “and the place they’ll discover all these fantastic books.”
Hicklebee’s is a family-owned enterprise run by two sisters, Valerie Lewis and Monica Holmes. Lewis is the face of the bookstore and works with authors, whereas Holmes runs the workplace and transports books to guide gala’s and conferences. Most of the workers are former academics and librarians.
Collectively, they’ve created a magical place for youngsters. On the partitions cavort characters from kids’s tales like “The place the Wild Issues Are” and “Madeline.” There are surprises round each nook, like the important thing to “The Secret Backyard” and the acorn that fell on Rooster Little’s head. The sisters hope to encourage curiosity in kids, main them to learn these basic tales.
The bookstore has hosted a who’s who of authors, many earlier than they had been well-known, together with J.Okay. Rowling. When Rowling paid Hicklebee’s a go to in 1998 earlier than the discharge of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” solely a handful of consumers got here. When she returned a yr later, Harry Potter had turn into a family title and Hicklebee’s, which offered 1,000 tickets for the occasion, needed to flip folks away.
The bookstore, situated on Lincoln Avenue in Willow Glen, opened in March 1979 with 4 long-time buddies: Jan Gottlieb, Lewis, Georgia Osborne and Vicki Villarreal. They jumped in with none enterprise expertise, soliciting recommendation from librarians and reaching out to publishers for catalogues.
When Villarreal and Osborne returned to educating, Gottlieb and Lewis ran the shop. Quickly Holmes joined them. Gottlieb moved away in 1991, and it’s been simply the sisters on the helm ever since.
A part of Hicklebee’s longevity is its sturdy neighborhood assist. When it relocated in 1989 from throughout the road, an ambulance driver shuttled books on a gurney whereas academics directed site visitors. Six months later, when the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta Earthquake shook the books off the cabinets, a line of neighborhood members got here to assist put them again.
“We give out to the neighborhood,” Lewis stated, “they usually give again to us, and that’s how we’ve survived.”
Operating an unbiased bookstore isn’t with out its challenges. The sisters have needed to deal with large chain bookstores and being undercut by Amazon. Lewis stated the shop’s status for its private service and specialty kids’s books units them aside.
Buyer E. Clay Buchanan agrees. He appreciates the workers’s suggestions and with the ability to flip by means of a guide in particular person.
“While you’re on-line, it’s not the identical as having the guide in your palms, particularly an image guide,” he stated. “And you’ll speak to somebody about it. You possibly can’t get that on-line.”
Saving the shop
Though Hicklebee’s has outlasted the guide behemoths, they nearly shut down for good through the summer season of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic struck. The bookstore pivoted to on-line orders, however couldn’t make up for a $150,000 loss from canceled guide gala’s. Dealing with break, they turned to the neighborhood for help by means of a GoFundMe marketing campaign. The neighborhood responded, elevating sufficient in two weeks to maintain them going.
“It was overwhelming,” Lewis stated. “I used to be in tears.”
Along with receiving assist from publishers, authors and editors, kids got here in to donate their allowances, youngsters held a bake sale and one girl donated her federal COVID reduction test.
Within the aftermath, the sisters added merchandise like stuffed animals, greeting playing cards, science kits, crafts tasks, puzzles, video games, toys and even studying glasses to assist the shop survive.
Pleasure Steuerwald commonly comes from Fremont to buy image books along with her son, Harrison Prioste. Steuerwald stated they love the texture of the shop and by no means go away disenchanted.
“It’s actually fascinating,” Prioste stated. “You possibly can’t get bored right here.”
For greater than 4 many years, Holmes stated the sisters have taken satisfaction within the beloved bookstore and the way it attracts clients from all through the area.
“How many individuals get to get up within the morning and stay up for going to work?” Lewis stated.
Cathy Nichols, who has been at Hicklebee’s for about 15 years, stated on any given Saturday, kids will sit on the ground studying books or listening whereas dad and mom learn to them.
“It’s an incredible neighborhood place to return to,” she stated.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]
Hicklebee’s Bookstore: A neighborhood favourite