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The drummer beat sadly is stopping

In Laguna Beach, much of what residents prize is old and

historical: the little beach cottages, the gnarled trees and that

“village” feel that is particular to the city. Residents treasure

them, in part, because they are fragile and a little bit transitory.

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But not everything that makes Laguna special dates back to early

last century. Much of its eclectic mix is new, even a little

cutting-edge. But just because they are new, does not mean they are

any more secure or safe than the city’s oldest house.

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At the end of the month, Different Drummer Books will close. For

15 years, the bookstore, which specialized in gay- and

lesbian-oriented books and magazines, was a notable part of the

city’s landscape from its visible perch on South Coast Highway. As

the only bookstore of its kind between San Diego and West Hollywood,

it served a wide community as an information warehouse that will now,

once again, be missing.

Owner Rob Merrell and others say a number of factors led to his

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decision to close up shop. The most immediate was a slow economy,

especially since the Sept. 11 terrorist bombings. Among the others

were the high cost of living in Laguna, which forced many of his

customers to move away from the store; traffic and parking

difficulties that keep locals from shopping in town, especially

during the summer; and an unsupportive city government that, they

suggest, does not do enough to encourage business to thrive.

There is little, seemingly, to do about the first two problems.

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But the latter two are in the hands of city leaders and residents,

who should continue to try to fix the city’s traffic and parking

problems and work to make City Hall reasonably friendly to

businesses.

Thriving business -- especially business that gives back to the

community and provides more than just revenue, as Different Drummer

did -- is good for Laguna Beach. It contributes to the “Laguna” feel

so cherished here.

It should be encouraged. With the loss of Different Drummer, a

piece of it will be missed.


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