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Barnes & Noble to close its Westside Pavilion store

The bookstore cannot afford the new lease payments, the company says. Other shops in the chain remain open.

November 25, 2011|By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times
  • Under the larger-than-life watchful eyes of literary figures William Faulkner and John Steinbeck, a pedestrian passes in front of the Barnes & Noble store at the Westside Pavilion in West Los Angeles. The store will soon close.
Under the larger-than-life watchful eyes of literary figures William… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

It isn't the cozy Shop Around the Corner — the indie bookstore of "You've Got Mail" movie fame — but it is the multilevel behemoth on the corner of Westwood and Pico boulevards that shoppers have browsed since 1995. And, now that Barnes & Noble has confirmed the unprofitable store's closing at year-end, lovers of things literary are bemoaning the demise of yet another Westside book merchant.

"We're terribly distressed. We're devastated," said Teri Geske of Cheviot Hills, who one recent evening was checking out J.R.R. Tolkien titles with her son, Matthew, 10, at the Westside Pavilion store.

Kathryn Ballsun, who lives near UCLA, was on the same page. "I think it's tragic," she said. "When a store closes, you lose the connection that comes from having a place where you can handle the books. It limits access."

Mitchell Klipper, chief executive of Barnes & Noble's retail group, said that the store's 15-year lease was expiring and that the "rent is in excess of what we can pay."

Macerich, the Santa Monica-based owner of Westside Pavilion, said the two sides tried but failed to come to terms. "We're sad to see them go," said Ryan Hursh, the mall's senior property manager. Urban Home, a regional home-furnishings store, has agreed to take over the 28,000-square-foot space, with its opening slated for next August.

Meanwhile, shoppers will be seeing more red clearance signs over Barnes & Noble's still well-stocked displays.

For readers who revel in touching, skimming and smelling books, the bad news keeps compounding.

Over the last several years, Westside bookstores large and intimate have gone under one by one, victims of Internet discounting, the poor economy and the popularity of electronic book readers such as Apple's iPad, Amazon's Kindle and Barnes & Noble's own Nook.

Among those that have closed: Borders and Mystery Bookstore in Westwood, Dutton's in Beverly Hills and Brentwood, Brentano's in Century City, Midnight Special in Santa Monica and Village Books in Pacific Palisades. That leaves relatively slim pickings, including the UCLA store at Ackerman Union, Children's Book World on Pico Boulevard and Diesel in Malibu and Brentwood.

Barnes & Noble executives have sought to assuage disappointed customers with reminders that they can shop at the chain's other stores on the 3rd Street Promenade and at the Grove. Geske, for one, found that small consolation. "They're not close enough, given the traffic," she said. "I really, honestly don't know what we'll do."

Klipper said Barnes & Noble was renewing more than 100 leases this year and typically closes eight to 12 stores a year. The company is "scouring the American landscape" for locations and would consider another Westside bricks-and-mortar store if the right opportunity presented itself, he added. "We're going after our digital strategy in a big way," he said. "The retail footprint will be part of the success of the digital strategy."

martha.groves@latimes.com

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