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Emporium of bittersweet memories

Posted: September 20, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 20, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Charrie Eckert, left, and Janie Kopecky are shown in their Canyon Country store, Paperback Emporium on March 5, 2011. Eckert passed away suddenly in March 2012, and after 31 years the store is closing.


For 31 years, the owners of the Canyon Country bookstore, Paperback Emporium, lovingly stocked, sold and traded books for readers who still loved the feel and smell of holding a book in their hands while reading. At the end of October, however, in a bittersweet move, the retailer will be closing its doors forever.

“The economy, Kindles and e-readers are putting us out of business,” said co-owner, Janie Kopecky.

Throughout the month of October, Paperback Emporium is liquidating its inventory through graduated discount sales. At the end of the month, Kopecky plans to pack up the remaining books and donate them to the SCV Senior Center and two Los Angeles veterans’ hospitals, she said.

Having out-survived other independent bookstores in the city, Kopecky and Charrie Eckert purchased the store in 1987. Kopecky’s husband was an instructor at College of the Canyons at the time. She now lives in Ventura. Eckert, a Santa Clarita resident since 1969, bought into the store in 1998.

For the past 14 years, the two women who loved books and often took scouting trips together to find books requested by customers, traded days at the store to manage the operation and keep the doors open.

In March of this year, however, Eckert passed away suddenly, Kopecky said. Originally she vowed to keep the store open in Eckert’s memory, but in May she needed major surgery. For the two months she spent in recovery, her daughter, a customer and two friends volunteered to run the store and keep it open.

But, driving back and forth from Ventura daily to operate the store alone is taking its toll, Kopecky said. And this past summer, usually their best season of the year, was the worst the store had ever had sales-wise. Kopecky said she had to face the reality that the store had to be closed.

“I’m devastated,” she said. “It’s bittersweet. I never thought the economy and e-readers would take people away from wanting to buy books.”

Kopecky invested nearly her entire adult life running the store. Family children grew up working in the store throughout the years, she said.

But now that the heart wrenching decision to close has been made, Kopecky said Paperback Emporium is still honoring its trade-in and credit on the sale of new books purchased program through the end of September. As of Oct. 2, everything in the store will be discounted 60 percent. Prices will be discounted by 65 percent the second week, and the last two weeks of the month all books will be sold at 75 percent off, she said.

The independent book store battled the big bookstore chains and e-readers with the help of loyal customers to survive, and Kopecky said the ending is going to be really hard for her. She just took her last trip tracking down a book by special request for a “very special customer,” an older gentleman. He was thrilled to death that I found it and brought it back for him, she said.

“My customers are shellshocked. They don’t know what to do,” she said. “I really cherished their patronage. I’m going to miss some of these customers.”



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