Last Cody's Bookstore Bids Farewell to Berkeley

Historic Independent Bookstore Chain Cody's Books Shuts Down Due to Financial Troubles

Photo: This Cody's location on Telegraph Avenue, photographed May 10, 2006, provided a large selection of books for its perusing customers. It closed two months later that July.
George Derk/File
This Cody's location on Telegraph Avenue, photographed May 10, 2006, provided a large selection of books for its perusing customers. It closed two months later that July.

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The last remaining branch of Cody's Books closed Friday, leaving community members feeling like the city of Berkeley had lost a landmark.

After 52 years of servicing the Bay Area, the independent bookstore succumbed to financial difficulties, forcing it to shut down.

"We just didn't have enough cash to operate it," said Mindy Galoob, the general manager of the Shattuck Avenue store which had just opened its doors in February.

Customers described Cody's as a high-quality bookstore with a good selection of books.

"I'm really sorry to see it go. I've lived in the area a long time," said Berkeley resident Todd Lorenz. "I've been coming here since they opened."

Founded in 1956 by Fred and Pat Cody, Cody's Books served Berkeley residents in various locations throughout that city as well as in San Francisco.

"Cody's was a haven for book lovers since I arrived in 1970. It set the standard for bookstores everywhere. It's a great loss," said Berkeley City Councilmember Linda Maio. "Those of us who know the feeling of being in a well-stocked store, with knowledgeable staff, and the ability to take a leisurely browse through bookshelves realize what is lost with Cody's closure."

Some customers were surprised to find a notice taped to Cody's locked doors announcing that it had closed, while others reflected on the favorable reputation that Cody's had given to independent bookstores.

"It's really sad. It's an independent bookstore that's gone the way a lot of independent bookstores go," said Berkeley resident Susan Swerdlow.

Cody's Books faced financial difficulties during its history, but was able to overcome them through the aid of various owners, until now.

Former Cody's Books owner Andy Ross said he sold the store hoping that someone else would be able to save it.

"I sold it (because) we were having financial problems, as were a lot of independent stores, and I needed someone who had more capital than I had," he said.

Ross said he sold the store to Yohan, a Japanese-based corporation, saying they had intended to rescue the slowly sinking business, though they ultimately experienced financial problems of their own.

City officials said they regret to see such a community stronghold close its doors.

"The Cody family contributed enormously to the Berkeley community. It's very sad that their bookstore is leaving. But it's symptomatic of small businesses," said Berkeley City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.

Fred Cody, who was working at a friend's paperback-making company, was inspired to open shop because of his love of and work with books.

"We borrowed money from friends and we found a little space on the Northside," said Cody's Books co-founder Pat Cody. "We were there for four years and struggling, not quite making it."

Cody attributed the store's downfall in part to the availability of information on the Internet.

"This is part of the whole revolutionary change in the way people get information," she said. "Now so much (information) is on the Internet, people don't even need to buy books anymore, you just Wikipedia it or you Google it, and it's there."

Customers of the store said the closure was unfortunate and that they will miss the store.

"I feel terrible," said longtime Cody's customer Frank Wildman. "I'm just coming here to pay homage. It's the end of an era."

Tags: CODY'S BOOKS


Contact Nee-Sa Lossing and Amy Mao at [email protected]



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