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fred logo  The Next Chapter -  the big move to Woodland's old rice mill
  1059 Court Street, Woodland 
   February 1998 - October 2003     
Here was a new adventure, a new city, a great brick building (and we do love old brick buildings) and a much bigger space to fill up with good books. The rice mill's space felt massive. There was 5,000 square feet of warehouse space, with the original office space split off in one corner. The floor stretched out seemingly forever, especially because we had to patch every square foot of it. The ceiling rose 35 feet to the central rooftop copula, the walls were all bricks painted white and broken up by huge 10 foot square, black metal, rolling doors. The doors had previously been opened to load the freight trains that waited on the tracks right by the side of the building. There were windows on three sides and on nice days we could roll open one of the big doors and let the light, air, and a rare bird in. And there was plenty of parking right in front of the store.

court streetI can still hear the train's horn blast through one of those open doors, late one night as we were power washing the walls. I was sweeping water out the open door, hadn't hear the train's approach, when this incredibly LOUD sound went off RIGHT THEREand almost stopped my heart! This was the night that Vicky learned that she never wanted to help power wash anything ever again. It was very wet, cold, tiring, and never ending. I had the time to build the enormous cashwrap counter in place, and it covered nearly as much space as our entire first bookstore. The floor prep involved days of patching holes small and large getting it ready for the new carpeting. Thanks go to our friends Jeff and Jim for their days of help. Small business owners learn many new skills putting a store together. When they're lucky, their friends get involved.

We were voted BEST NEW BOOKSTORE in 2002, 2003, 2004
and BEST USED BOOKSTORE in 2003, 2004 in Yolo County by the readers of The Daily Democrat. Thanks!

Moving the store involved lots more friends and customers, numerous vehicles of all kinds, all making many trips up the highway from Davis to Woodland. Once again, we were only closed for one day moving, and even held a live music concert the next night. There was still lots of "assembly required" but The Next Chapter was recognizable as a bookstore very quickly.

inside court  st

At first, the old office (behind the green wall in the photo above) became our office and storage area. There was a large, old walk-in safe there - though we never seemed to need it for storing our large amounts of cash. I polished up that old safe door till it glowed. After some time passed, some dear friends offered to help us put a coffeehouse in and relocate the office space. I had had the whole coffee experience helping manage an Upstart Crow bookstore and coffeehouse down in San Diego, and we did some more research, and checked out plenty of other coffeehouses and designs.

cafethe machine

We hired local contactor Ken, and had one wall taken out, another put in, and the electrical and plumbing work done. I custom-built the counters and tables, did a very cool mixed colored flooring, and we all painted the rooms some bright, happy yellows and oranges. The floor was like spreading rich chocolate frosting - it was a real kick. It was a nice look, and our brand-new, bright red espresso machine was a perfect match. All in all, the coffeehouse took nine months of planning, building, and permitting. I used flying pig as graphics in the coffeehouse to symbolize how long it all took, because we were sure that pigs would learn how to fly before we served any coffee. Our inspection took place in September of 2001 - on 9/11 to be exact. Very strange timing. It was a very short and distracted final health inspection.


The bookstore space was so big and wide-open, that it was so easy to change things around to hold all manner of special events. We held our monthly live music concerts, all types of author events, the bookstore's own Village Idiots book club meetings, several Adult Education class meetings a week with our dear friend Marilyn teaching, plenty of room to show off the entries in our yearly Weird Christmas Tree art contest, and we hosted a whole slew of public and private meetings. It was just what we wanted to provide, a fun place for a community members to use for all types of purposes, all the time surrounded by great books...a comfortable community center.

Live music sound really nice with the high ceilings and the vastness of the space itself impressed people when they came for the first time. Covering the high walls were all sorts of great graphic from book posters and other book-related artwork that I framed. This huge space was a ravenous bear to heat, cool, and light, but it was a very special bookstore. This was also the time when our store contained the largest collection of bookcases, tables and other fixtures from other bookstores, bookstores that had disappeared from the retail book world. The fixtures were great to have to show off our books, but I also thought these many different fixtures were a kind of an elephant graveyard of ghosts-of-bookstores-past fixtures, stores like agAccess, Gayle's, Bogey's Books, and more.

Our stores were all a balance of me always having trouble finding the time and money to build more of the fixtures I had custom-designed in my head, and Vicky's desire for open space because of the claustrophobia that lived in her head. Another thing that was always in our bookstores from the first day, was good music playing at all times. People were always complimenting us for the music we played, but it was just the music that both of us liked. Since we pretty much lived in our stores, it was like our home, so we played what we liked.

uncle joeThe people of Woodland were very welcoming, and after some of the heated controversy of the Davis Borders battle, it was so nice to have so many people telling us they were so thrilled to have a real bookstore come to town. We also sold a much wider range of books in Woodland than we had in Davis, the curiosity was definitely there. The other major difference was that we sold so many more children's books hereour customers were hungry for books for their children.

The rice mill had a lot of history to it and we had a true love for that old building. We had a great time selling books there.


here's a letter we wrote to Patricia Holt years ago, and she is is writing about publishing at Holt Uncensored

Dear Holt Uncensored:

I'm writing to you as the owner of a struggling independent bookstore in Woodland, California. My wife and I started our bookstore, about a dozen miles away, in Davis, back in 1987. We had both worked in small independents and then as management in chain bookstores for years. When the chain mentality became too much, we took the leap and started our own little 1,100-sq. ft. empire.

In 1998, we chose to leave Davis rather than to watch our eleven years of blood, sweat, and tears go down the literary drain. We left because a Borders superstore (one bigger than all ten existing Davis bookstores combined) crashed and crushed its way into town with the blessings of the City Council, UC Davis, and the local newspaper. A misguided city council was told (by an "impartial" university and developer) that book sales and TAX REVENUES would soar. As for the university, they sold their land (for millions) to a big-time developer from Sacramento · from whom they expected big money contributions (more millions). Money was talkingnomoney was a yelling · and demanding things.

Vicky and I announced, from the beginning, that our store would leave town before Borders opened. We made it very clear in our many letters to the editor, store displays, and countless flyers and handouts, that we were being forced to leave because we couldn't take even a 10% hit in sales and survive. We are a typical small independent, with a "slim" profit margin, a lack of any capital reserve, and the knowledge that many of our good customers (no matter how strongly they professed their distaste for big-box) would be looking and buying at the giant new bookstore. We could hear in our sleep"Why it's so bigit must have every book I could ever want. And I'll shop at those little old bookstores once in a whilethat'll be enough to keep them in business."

We helped to form a citizens group to fight the new mall and superstore. We also hosted weekly public meetings in our store, met with the developer (he just wanted to HELP us booksellers by -- "lifting all the boats in the harbor"), held literary/food events, and met with countless members of the media to get the word out. We were greeted by a few with negative comments because we had crossed that linewe had mixed business and politics, and we were a rowdy and literate rabble. Our much-loved label of RABBLE came from the unthinking developer in one of the many puff pieces that the newspaper ran. I guess we were supposed to crash and burn with professional civility. Some polite people don't want to hear any ugly truths.

But, when it came to large numbers of Davisites, we weren't alone in our view of things. We quickly collected over 4,500 signatures on petitions to the city council, asking them to work with the developer to bring some retail to town that was actually needed. Scores of businesses joined us in newspaper ads publicly showing their support. City Council and Planning Commission meetings were packed with impassioned people, speaking for hours on what the existing bookstore community meant to them.

But, as is often the case, it was a done deal before the public had caught scent of anything, and the threat of lawsuits from the developer gave the City an excuse to change nothing"let's get building." There is a lawsuit about the project, by the citizens group against the city for violating planning law, but it's lost in the courts as Borders continues to sell books and drive independent bookstores out of town.

We started looking for a new home. After looking around the West Coast, and seeing the identical damage being done to the social and business communities of countless cities by big-boxes and superstores of all types, we decided to lease a 5,000 sq. ft. space in a wonderful 1904 rice mill building right here in Woodland. The welcome from the Woodland community has been great, especially after the disturbing Davis scene.

Our bookstore is beautiful, we offer countless, quality services, we have a regular clientele and a fine staff ... and yet, we continually stagger from tax payment, to overdue publisher bills, to financial crisis. We operate "close to the bone" with six full and part-time employees, my wife, Vicky, doing the ordering, and running the sales floor, and I do the accounting, marketing, and build the fixtures. Still we struggle.

About a year ago, we had a real fiscal "crunch time" and asked our customers for help. We encouraged investment, prepaid gift certificates, for everyone to tell their friends and relatives about our store and to do anything that they could think of to help. The response was great, and we got over that rough spot. We made improvements to the store, we got some press in the local newspaper (the Woodland paper is four square behind us), and we saw the ever-important sales numbers climb. It was looking like we might be on our way to that point where we could fulfill our dream of getting current on bills.

But, of course, that scenario was not to be (at least, not yet). Once again, we find ourselves in jeopardy. We've prepared another request asking for help and to show that the battle will go on and on·.

John P. Hamilton & Vicky Panzich The Next Chapter Woodland, California


Holt responds:
When I wrote last time about independents exhausting all resources in their fight to stay alive, and then coming back to the store to fight some more, I couldn't have put it more eloquently than the letter above and The Next Chapter's message to customers, excerpts of which follow:

We are, yet again, at a bad spot in the road, and we need your understanding and, if possible, help to bridge this pothole on the way to Prosperity (or Solvency?). To those of you who have lately placed special orders and were told your book would arrive within a week, we regretfully have to renege on that offer. Our major supplier has stopped shipments until we are current with payments. It could take up to a month for us to get those books that we need. We apologize for any inconvenience that this might cause and understand if you can't wait for your order. We are always able to order directly from the publisher; however, this process does take at least 3-4 weeks.

We wish to assure you that we haven't given up hope that we will, eventually, reach solid ground. But we have given up on the idea that it will happen, like magic, soon. When we issued our appeal for investments and help in any form last year, we had previously gone through many ups and downs but were still optimistic that solvency was right around the corner. The amount of support many of youour dear customersprovided was invaluable. It allowed us to continue through a successful Christmas season and to expand the tutoring program which we hope to run indefinitely. We have been able to enlarge some categories and have been enjoying a 10-15% increase in business.

And over this past year, some major truths have emerged, and they are that the struggle to maintain an independent bookstore is ongoing, and that, beyond our own commitment, we will always need our community's support. When we reflect, like Blanche, that we "have always depended on the kindness of strangers" (and friends and family), we could grow despondent (and have actually) but the bigger picture is that this IS the nature of our business . . . Even though we've survived for 13 years, the path does not necessarily get any easier.

That we are still here is not only a testament to our stubborn character, but the commitment of our customers. When that disappears, so will we.

We still encourage investment in our future. Investments may be made in the form of money that earns interest or store credit after one year or money put on account toward purchases, which earn a discount. You could tell your friends and neighbors about our store or do your holiday shopping in May (and then forget it's done and come back in December to do it all over again!). Besides the usual strategy of running our business on the thinnest shoestring imaginable, John and I are now actively searching for outside employment. That will certainly help the cash flow problem, but, again, we will not survive without your commitment, understanding, and help. All creative ideas are appreciated. And, above all, never underestimate our commitment toward you. Thanks for being there.

trip back in time

Take a trip back in time
Mansion Book Merchants
132 E Street, Davis from March of 1987 to June 1992
  The Next Chapter
225 G Street, Davis from June 1992 to February 1998
  The Next Chapter1059 Court Street, Woodland from February 1998 to October 2003
  The Next Chapter 622 Main Street, Woodland from November 2003 to June 2008
   Raven's Tale 352 Main Street, Placerville from June 2008 to August 2009

                                                        some of the programs we put on in our bookstores

book some past events & writers

book Woodland Reads - we started this program to get Woodland readers on the same page - by holding events around a different book every year

book Poem-A-Day - every day during National Poetry Month (April) we handed out a printed copy of a favorite poem and emailed the same poem to a ever-growing Poem-A-Day mailing list

book we continue to mark the passing of some of the major figures of the book world - as we did with displays in our stores

book Banned Books Week - this was one of my favorite events - one that got more people reading books that some people wanted banned

book there was also: our Weird Christmas Tree Contest that brought the strange of many people, in-store reading tutoring for children, our many different book clubs, our Books from the Heart program to get more books into the local schools, the Day of the Dead shrine and community meal, and so many other programs, as well as always making our bookstore and coffeehouse available for countless community meetings.

lore  learn about the differences between ravens and crows
fist the world of independent bookselling

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