MEMORIES OF KEPLER'S
I came to California in 1969 to go to Foothill College. I bought some of my books for class at Kepler's, then located at San Antonio Road and El Camino. It seemed like a ramshackle little bookstore. Then, as now, I loved to go and browse through the stacks. Some years later, they moved up to Menlo Park, to an elegant little white building, across the street from Arby's. I followed them, browsing happily through their stacks there, adding to what would eventually be nearly 800 books in my library.
Coming through the door, looking up and finding my face inches from Joan Baez on her way out. She had that deer-in-the-headlights look that celebrities have when they think they're trapped. (I was always a Judy Collins fan, so no worries.)
Coming in when Jerry Rubin (Abbie Hoffman? I always got them mixed up.) was signing his book. I had to crane my body around him, since he was sitting right in front of the book I wanted.
Kurt Vonnegut signing books in assembly-line fashion.
Jonathan Gash, the English mystery writer, with all the friendliness of a man for whom the world is a pub.
Standing next to Joyce Carol Oates in the elevator on the way to her book signing.
I'm right in the middle of my life reading plan --all of English literature. I've just finished "The Woman in White". My next book is "The Moonstone" and I'd like to buy it at Kepler's. Please save this wonderful world!— Bob Siegmann
It's strange how quickly things change, I'm only 13, and yet quite a few of the landmarks that dotted my childhood have faded into oblivion. One of these places was Printer's Inc, and now, it looks like, Kepler's will join the list. Odd, you would say, a thirteen-year old grieving over the closing of a bookstore! But Kepler's wasn't just any bookstore, it was a place to sit down to read big part of a book right there at the store. It had atmosphere, an aura of comfort and warmth. Nearly anything you pulled off the shelf would be able to entrance you for as long as your parents meandered around the financial section. I think, in a way, that was what made Kepler's special. I know that it was virtually impossible for my family to walk away from Kepler's without at least 5 books in tow (2 of which were usually mine).
Almost the exact opposite feelings that swept over me when my mother told me that Kepler's was closing, I don't know when we started going there regularly, but it was rather a long while ago. I do know that whenever my parents announced a trip to the bookstore I could always look forward to a good time, the delight of forcing my parents to buy me books, and a slice of chocolate cake from the cafe next door.
I and my family have been buying books from Keplers for 40+ years. I simply cannot imagine where else I would go. I gave friends Xmas credits at Keplers even if I knew that they were Amazon buyers, just trying to keep up the pressure to have independent bookstores, a necessity for a cultured society. I didn't until now know the expression "keppling." but it is certainly what I did. What joy to simply wander around, talk to the well informed sales people, and just look at books...go in for one title and come out with four or five great new books, a couple of which I have right now, as yet unread, on my bedside table. I have adapted, more or less, to the computer generation, but I need books, and at 76 and half deaf, I need them more than ever.
— Jerry Farber
As a child my parents would take my sister and me into Kepler's almost every Friday night. It was a family ritual. My father and mother would peruse the stacks and shelves. My sister and I would head first for the children's section and then after a few minutes, we would head for the back of the store. There, we would find hot tea, frappés, baklava and often to our delight, Jerry Garcia.
Back in the late 1960s, I worked at a Peace Corps Philippines Training Program on the Stanford Campus. Moving to Palo Alto from Newark, NJ, was quite a cultural shock and it was on the day a friend told me about Kepler's that I rode my bike there one evening and sunk into a huge old armchair and literary bliss. I think that evening I "got" Northern California. Let's keep this community anchor of civility and ideas alive!
— Nadya Disend
Kepler's would have been among the first places I visited when I came to Stanford as a graduate student in 1958. Graduate students were then housed in the remnants of an abandoned army hospital in Menlo Park (now part of SRI's campus) called “Stanford Village,” and Kepler's occupied a small building around the corner from the Guild Theater. I believe the first book I purchased there was a copy of Colette's “My Mother's House” in the Anchor edition for 95 cents.
I am a long term customer, now living in Eugene, OR. I was visiting my son in Palo Alto and brought my granddaughter to buy books on the day after you closed. We approached the door, finding it closed. There, laying on the doorstep was a bouquet of white flowers. My heart sank. I read part of the sign but turned away in dismay and anguish. Kepler's has been my intellectual light for decades, and I can not bear to think it has gone away for ever.
I loved it when it was across the street and the books were shelved on rough wooden shelves with metal brackets. I was awed by the ambitious and wonderful new building, but that wonderful building is NOT Kepler's. It is the people and the selection of books that has kept my mind informed and my brain stimulated and my senses quivering with the accumulation of information available in your store.
I have especially enjoyed the summer reading tables, finding it fascinating to note what the educators are selecting as worthwhile literature for the strong young minds on our Peninsula. One of my granddaughters just graduated from Castilleja school, and the other one is off to UCSD. I have bought books for them at Kepler's their entire lives.
— Diane Alderman
I shopped Kepler's in the 60's & early 70's for "underground" comic books. You had to get Mr. Kepler to show them to you as they were kept under the counter. Some were sexual in nature, drug culture related or just plain so off the wall they couldn't be displayed. Kepler's sort of regaled in supporting freedom of expression even if it meant they sold publications that weren't mainstream. R. Crumb was an artist that I always looked forward to finding a new comic book from and Kepler's was the only place to get them on the Peninsula. I still have them all by the way. I have boycotted Borders ever since they decimated the theatre building in downtown Palo Alto. Long Live Kepler's....
— Will Radcliffe
I have been shopping at Kepler's since I moved to this area in the fall of 1961. I loved the old Kepler's when it was in a store front and only sold paperbacks. There were tables of books by subject in front and there were various rooms with the bookshelves. With all of the selection on the tables, I often didn't make it back to the bookshelves. I could never get out of the store for less than $20 (which was a lot of money in the early sixties - actually, this is still true - the only change is that the amount I spend has gone up over the years). I have followed Kepler's from location to location. I miss the old store but, of course, it wouldn't work in today's world. But, I still like to check the books on the tables. I am glad that this has not changed. Looking at the books available on the tables make it easy for me to make up my list of books I want for Christmas. I buy my grandniece's books in the children's section. I was just in Kepler's the Sunday before it closed buying books for my vacation.
— Marilyn M. Terman
I am deeply deeply saddened by the news of the closing of Kepler's and am praying that there is a way to keep this landmark open. I have a 13-month old daughter who's first public outing was to Cafe Borrone with a stop at Kepler's afterwards to introduce Ariel to the wonders of books
— Kelli Suchy
My children and now my grandchildren have learned the joy of exploring bookstores by "keppling." We coined this phrase 30 years ago when we first moved here, making it a point to "kepple" after dinners and movies. Everyone has their favorite spots. I hope some investors can save the store and in this space. To lose it is to lose the heart of Menlo Park. I am so sorry I didn't buy the 50th anniversary bag/hat!
— Judith Fernandez
I just turned 62 and I remember going to Kepler's when I was in high school at Sequoia Union High in Redwood City. A friend introduced me to Kepler's and I thrived in the discussions I participated in with Stanford students and community speakers. Kepler's was always a place where you could meet people and be mentally stimulated.
I have shopped at Kepler's since I was a little girl living in College Terrace with my graduate student parents in the early 1960's. As a college student, young professional, and then mother of three avid readers, Kepler's was a once-a-week stop for me for almost twenty years. I now live in Santa Cruz (where I do enjoy and frequent the Santa Cruz Bookshop), but I still make my way to Kepler's at least once a month.
— Nina Van Hoven
I must admit my first reaction was: where will we go to Mass? Horrors, it's like they've taken our youth. Yanked our past out from under us. I'm glad that I was just there on August 6. There seemed to be no sign of pending problems. In my early college days, Kepler's was my source of radical politico-economic thought (well, it was the sixties after all). I'm sure Kepler's is responsible for my ongoing contempt for Republicanism. As I mellowed out, I just loved it for a good read (make it lite; I've graduated, I did my time). Gosh, Borrone's custard/coffee and a new book, it didn't get much better than that. Sigh....
— Susan Thompson
When I first heard the news from one of my book group friends, I thought the news that Kepler's was closing was a hoax, an urban legend. My second instinct was to organize a candlelight vigil to let Clark Kepler know how much we want the bookstore to stay open. I'm glad to hear that there is an event on Tuesday evening.
— Catherine Shinners
The news about Kepler's closing was a huge shock. I was a Kepler's employee in the early 80s (ending as a buyer). The work was hard (especially at Christmas), but it was fun a lot of the time and the opportunities to learn unparalleled. To this day I have to stop myself from automatically straightening if I'm in front of a book display.
Being part of an institution of such historic and cultural significance made all of the hard work worthwhile. I very much hope that the solutions appearing now will allow Kepler's to stay afloat, with its unique character intact. We desperately need signs of hope right now.
With hugs to Clark and all of the Kepler's crew past and present during this time of difficulty.
As another former employee--1988 /99--I was shocked when I got the news on Thursday via email from an uncle in Maine who heard it from a War Resister's League connection. In the years since I moved back East I've continually touted Kepler's to anyone in search of books and no doubt driven employers to distraction by citing many expamles of the right way--the Kepler's way--of conducting business. My husband and I lost our small business 2 years ago, but the loss of Kepler's has been a more emotional blow. I am hopeful that Clark will be able to find worthy investors to continue his mission.
— Jude Hsiang
My mother just informed me of the closing of Kepler's.
For me, like all of you, this has added another shock to the ones we are all suffering from Hurricane Katrina - and from what the slowness and militarized character of the response to it is showing us about the downside as well as the upside of our character as a nation.
I have hardly been to Kepler's since I moved away from the Bay Area in the early 1970's. But Kepler's and especially Roy and Ira Sandperl did a lot to form me as a person from 1957 to 1970. They were both friends, mentors and occasional jailmates, as we struggled together, helped by their calm leadership, to keep the Midpeninsula peace and antidraft movements free of violence.
I never worked at Kepler's, but I hung out there alot. Some parents used TV to keep ther kids quiet and under control. Mine used Kepler's (whether they knew it or not).
I remember Jerry Garcia and his group of followers in the pre-Grateful Dead days when we spent time there - albeit at separate tables. I remember the Mid-Peninsula Free University - the community counterpart of my years as a Stanford grad student when I was able to join Roy and Ira in the battle for the soul of the peace movement (and the free U.) . I also remember the nonviolent resistance training that Roy led -when we went to the Quaker Center in Ben Lomond to learn how to resist evil without resorting to it ourselves.
There were also the long nights at both Kepler's stores when a small group of Roy's friends stayed long after closing to protect the stores from threatened attacks by right-wing mini-terrorists (just out to do damage, not kill folk). It took several months, but they were finally caught.
I am sure there are thousands if not tens of thousands of people in whom (like myself, I hope) Roy and Ira's legacy lives on in some worthy form. I hope that it is able to live on in the store as well. It did a whole lot more then provide people with quality books, as those of you who are trying to save it, know all too well.
I am cheered to know that the Bay Area appears to be turning out in some numbers to help this effort. In our ever more militarized and terrorized lives, it is very good to know that people are determined to save a pacifist bookstore, which (savor the irony) also represents the best in the spirit of capitalism and entrepreneurship.
— John Shippee
In the early 60's I'd drive down the peninsula from Berkeley to visit Kepler's. The prune yards and orchards enroute felt spacious and lush, as though there were space for all sorts of people and things, and nothing could go wrong in god's world.
After my browse through the racks of books--Kepler's always had something of special interest--I'd drive along the back streets of Palo Alto looking into yards for signs of hippies, Ken Kesey and psychodelia.
It feels more than innocent now, with water horrors in the deep south, war horrors in the Middle East, political horrors in Washington. But who'd have thought that another horror would strike in our own little burb. Kepler's is closing?
I've bought seldom from Amazon, but if Kepler's arises from the ashes, I cross my heart and hope to die that no books ever will enter my home from the net. They'll come from my local dealer. Kepler's, please, find a way to stay.
— Judy Morley
I now live in Paris but grew up in Menlo Park, as did my parents, and I have stood on the sidelines as one small local proprietor after another shut its doors, unable to make ends meet, only to be replaced by behemoths such as Starbucks, Noah’s Bagels, The Gap, and the like with deep pocket corporate funds.
On trips home, one of my first stops is always to Kepler’s and Borrone’s for a paper and coffee to catch up on the local scuttlebutt. Kepler’s was a beloved institution and over the past half century had woven itself into the fabric of and instrumentally contributed to the richness (culturally speaking) of this community, a “cultural nexus” as one former employee reminisced. It wasn’t simply a store to buy a book, it was a meeting place to gather, learn and listen. I can’t count the number of authors I had the to privilege to hear speak. It was also a comfortable haven to just grab a book or magazine and melt in one of their overstuffed chairs, a brief respite from the frenetic pace, the insanity, not to mention the traffic, of the Valley.
I don’t know what I can do 6,000 miles away to help but if you think of something, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
— Laura Pauli
I love Kepler's and Borrone's. The two are inseparable. I wrote my PhD thesis at Borrone's and everyday took a stroll through the store. Half the books I bought since I arrived in the US 10 years ago came from there.
— Winton Davies
I worked for Kepler's from 1970-77, during which I was returns clerk, sales clerk, general everything, and buyer for a year. I painted cartoons on the men's room wall. Kepler's gave me my social life and my work life and it was home to me. In the early 1980s I managed the failing Kepler's of Los Altos, which was no longer connected to the Kepler's in Menlo Park. After leaving the Bay Area in 1983, I went on to become a small press publisher, and my business relationship with Kepler's continued in a different costume. So naturally, I was thunderstruck by recent news. And it got me thinking.
I wonder if anyone has suggested that Kepler's be reopened on a smaller, more local scale? I suppose it's terribly old-fashioned of me, but I still remember that one of the books that never stopped selling back when I was aboard was “Small Is Beautiful.”
— John Daniel
As a former employee (late 80s), I can’t begin to express my sadness at this news. I live in New York now, but working at Kepler’s was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I still order books from there, and recently referred a friend in the East Village to the website. of course, what she was looking for was in stock and was shipped to her within a few days. Why do people shop at chains when there’s such an amazing resource both physically and online? I’ll never understand. I hope Clark can get the money together to continue.
— Jill Bressler
Kepler’s was a lifeline-I lived around the corner in the early 90’s while I was a postdoc at Stanford. Kepler’s and Café Borrone were the only place to be on a Sunday morning newspaper, fabulous coffee, a sense of community, and the incredibly well-read staff at Kepler’s! I am back in India now, and read with horror that Kepler’s is closed. Considering what a wealthy community surrounds this haven, I hope something can be done to save it.
— Jyotsna Dhawan
I am deeply saddened by why I have just heard. I now live in Los Angeles, but whenever I visit my parents, the first stop I make is always to Kepler's. There are no book stores in Los Angeles that even begin to compare.
— Elizabeth Cheung
I really enjoy going to Kelper's book store; because last time I when when the Duchness of York was there book signing, and the Harry Potter night when a new book hit the selves. I've been too busy to see what is new on the shelves. I like the people working at Kepler's they are very helpful if can't find a book or newspaper or magazine. My friend and I would be really sad if its closed the door.
— Greta von Amberg