In this increasingly digitized age of e-books and e-readers, Books on Broadway in downtown Costa Mesa has struggled to survive as a purveyor of real books, mostly used paperbacks but also hardcovers.
Earlier this spring, the store's co-owners, Sharon Patch and Flora Schoonover, seemed all but certain that their shop at 145 Broadway wasn't going to make it. They pegged its closing date as May 31.
For Patch, Costa Mesa wasn't just going to lose a bookstore; it was going to lose a cultural center where people like to peruse the stacks, hang out and talk.
Then, about two weeks ago, Costa Mesa resident Bob Williams, a semi-retired consultant, walked in with a check and a commitment to stay onboard as another co-owner.
"I want this community asset to stay here," Williams said in an interview Tuesday. "This is a resource that just needs to stay."
On Monday, more money came in, this time from Adeline Trujillo, a Santa Ana resident and a longtime Books on Broadway customer.
The funds, in addition to the help of volunteers, effectively opened a new chapter for the bookstore.
The job isn't done yet though. The Books on Broadway team will be downsizing from 960 square feet to 480. Its new address will be 143 Broadway.
Also, the roughly 30,000-book collection will be whittled to 10,000 items in anticipation of the tighter quarters.
Some books will go into storage until they're ready to be sold. Some will be given away. Duplicates will find new homes.
For those that make the cut to get on the shelves, "it's going to be quite a shoehorning event," Williams said.
Books on Broadway is a relatively new name for the bookstore. For years, it was a romance novel store called New and Recycled Romances.
Founder Toni Bruner got the idea after realizing she had accumulated about 2,500 paperbacks. She was, she said, "addicted" to romance novels, so in 1987, she opened New and Recycled Romances using her own collection as inventory.
Within a few years, the store gained a loyal following. A shopper told the Los Angeles Times in 1993 that New and Recycled Romances' customers were like a sorority, with women gossiping among each other about their latest reads.
In 2007, on the store's 20th anniversary, Bruner told the Daily Pilot: "So here we are, 20 years later, still in the happy-ending business."
In 2012, Bruner sold the store to Patch, a Costa Mesa resident, and Schoonover, who lives in Santa Ana. They renamed it New and Recycled Reads and eventually Books on Broadway, though the change isn't reflected on the signage yet.