BookSmart still struggles to stay open

Owners feared permanent closure earlier this year

BookSmart co-owners Brad Jones and Cinda Meister have struggled to keep their store open.

It may be a day-to-day struggle, but longtime Morgan Hill mainstay BookSmart is still in business. When owners Brad Jones and Cinda Meister announced in March that BookSmart, 1295 E. Dunne Ave., might close, sales took a tumble, but their landlord Fri Reddy offered the couple time to get caught up on their back rent. However, the $7,500 monthly rent is a tough nut to crack, and the future of BookSmart remains in doubt.

“We’re going day by day, inch by inch,” Jones said. “The landlord has been working with us, but we’re getting close to the holidays, so they want us to catch up with the rent. We’ve looked at a smaller space where the rent won’t be as much of an issue.”

The root of BookSmart’s financial struggles started with the accumulation of bad debt after its move from downtown Morgan Hill to its current location. With a low credit rating, Jones and Meister have been repeatedly turned down for refinancing.

In April, BookSmart requested a $175,000 small business loan from the City of Morgan Hill. The Morgan Hill City Council voted 3-2 to explore the loan, but the store’s owners had second thoughts.

“It would be at the same level as a regular bank; we decided that would not be the best,” Jones said. “We passed on that.”

News of BookSmart’s possible closure spread quickly in late March when Jones and Meister shared on their website that they were likely to shut the business down within months. Soon after that, BookSmart’s landlord, Harvest Plaza LLC, offered to give Jones and Meister time to pay the back rent. The news of the store’s potential closure negatively affected business over the summer.

“People thought we were closed, and business this summer was slow,” Jones said.

Jones and Meister are hopeful for a busy holiday season. While BookSmart’s regular customers have stayed loyal, Jones and Meister have been forced to cut back on employee hours and shifts. The cutback grieves Jones, especially after his staff and Meister helped to run BookSmart while Jones recovered from double knee replacement surgery.

“I feel really poorly about that; they helped keep the place going,” Jones said.

Jones and Meister are looking for a smaller space to save on rent, but they’re reticent to rent a space that would preclude BookSmart from continuing to be a place where the community can gather. Any potential new locations they’ve considered cost about the same $7,500 per month that they pay now.

To help make ends meet, Jones runs a side blueprinting business, and Meister works as a notary public. But as of today, it’s business as mostly usual at BookSmart.

“These days it’s Trump book after Trump book,” Jones said.

BookSmart continues to host community events while Jones and Meister work to dig out of their financial jam.

“That’s always been part of our business. They will bring in a lot of customers,” Jones said.

To check out special events at BookSmart, or to order a book, visit myBookSmart.indielite.org.

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