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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : SEAL BEACH

Beloved Bookseller Won't Be Forgotten

Friends of Nathan Cohen, who died earlier this year, plan to reopen shop and supplement it with a Web site.

August 21, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

More than three months after the death of a man some called the "angel of books," a makeshift memorial to Nathan Cohen remains at the storefront of his closed Bookstore on Main Street.

Poems, letters and a few potted plants can still be found on the windowpanes and at the foot of the door to the 18-year-old Seal Beach landmark. It's a tribute to Cohen, who owned the funky bookstore known for its seemingly endless piles of secondhand books, and the pleasant memories he left most anyone who stopped inside.

To honor those memories, a group of residents will go beyond a planned Cohen memorial park bench and are putting together a nonprofit group to reopen Bookstore on Main Street.

The group in charge of a Nathan Cohen trust fund, started to finance the memorial bench, plan to take over the lease of the store and purchase the thousands of books inside from Mark Goldstein, Cohen's half-nephew and only heir.

A Web site, still under construction, will be an extension of the bookstore's charm, said Kenn Robillard, the group's leader.

Robillard remembers Seal Beach from the days of family vacations in the '50s, and his fondness for bygone days is a big factor in wanting to preserve the bookstore, he said.

"Pretty soon, this funky bookstore could be a thing of the past," Robillard said. "The bookstore is part of that old-fashioned kind of store. That's what made Seal Beach unique."

He said the group's members really have "nothing in common other than we all considered ourselves friends of Nathan."

"Only after he was gone have people begun to realize how special Nathan was," Robillard said. "His gift was random kindness. And the bookstore will be a tribute to the concept of random kindness."

The store's lease payments have been made several months ahead, giving the group time to get financing and approval from city officials, Robillard said.

The group wants to hire a manager for the store and have volunteers help with keeping the store running in line with its original concept: selling old and used books inexpensively.

Cohen was known to hand out books to children on their birthdays and was somehow able to find books of special interest to customers despite the store's seeming disorganization.

"That was the magic of this place," Robillard said. "And it's [still] right here in our backyard. I'm proud of it."

Alex Murashko can be reached at (714) 966-5974.

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