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Irvine's Whale of a Tale bookstore to move, scale back

A Whale of a Tale Bookshoppe in Orange County will close it doors at the end of May. Owner Alexandra Uhl promises that the children's bookstore will reopen elsewhere in Irvine in the coming months -- but in a smaller location, with fewer hours.

In an email to customers Monday, Uhl wrote, "I’m ready to pass on the bittersweet announcement that the store will be closing at the current location at the end of May, and re-opening on a reduced schedule in a new Irvine location during the summer."

In recent years, many independent bookstores have seen the business grow ever more difficult due to online book sales and the advent of e-books. Uhl explains, "In today’s world, the economy, the size of the store, and the seven-day work weeks to manage it, no longer make sense for me."

The 1,600-square-foot bookstore has been open since 1989. During its two decades of operation, it has hosted A-level stars of children's books, including J.K. Rowling, Julie Andrews, Lemony Snicket (in the form of Daniel Handler), Jamie Lee Curtis and even Laura and Jenna Bush.

In 2001, the bookstore won the Pannell Award from the Women's National Book Assn., designed to "publicly applaud the work of booksellers who stimulate, promote and encourage children’s and young people’s interest in books." At the time, the Orange County Register listed the extra efforts that Uhl undertook to connect her store to the community: a quarterly newsletter, a recommended reading list, events with authors at the store and in local schools, field trips and storytime sessions in the shop. She told the paper that her goal was to create "readers for life."

In her email Monday, Uhl wrote, "I’ll have more details soon about the new location, but I can tell you it will be a smaller space with limited hours. A Whale of a Tale will, though, continue to host popular school and library events. And even with reduced hours, the store will be there to serve your book needs. For now, I bid you a fond and grateful farewell."


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