Betting on books

Independent bookstore Laguna Beach Books survives in spite of stiff competition from online retailers.

February 13, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Proprieter Jane Hanauer organizes newly arrived books for shelving at Laguna Beach Books on Tuesday.
Proprieter Jane Hanauer organizes newly arrived books… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Jane Hanauer wants to make one thing clear: She does not detest Barnes & Noble.

The owner of Laguna Beach Books operates one of the few surviving independent bookstores in Orange County — a region that, unlike Seattle or San Francisco, doesn't offer many non-chain alternatives. Anyone who appreciates booksellers with a quirky personal touch can probably check off the ones that have vanished in recent years: Latitude 33 Bookshop in Laguna, the Green Door in San Juan Capistrano, and so on.

Hanauer, though, has no qualms about referring people to the retail giant if they're seeking a book she doesn't carry. As far as she's concerned, her store and Barnes & Noble are united in supporting a cause. And instead of B&N, it could be abbreviated as B&M — which is to say, brick and mortar.

"I think even for Barnes & Noble, they feel the same realistic threat from Amazon and online purchasing, which is the biggest problem for independent bookstores and probably the biggest problem for Barnes & Noble," Hanauer said Feb. 8 in the storage room of her shop at 1200 S. Coast Hwy. "You know, you have your physical space. You pay rent. You have employees. You deal with the public. You're open seven days a week.


"And it's very, very hard for people who do that to compete with someone who's sending things through the mail but doesn't have to have an actual physical store or that kind of customer service that we can give here at the store."

Hanauer, a longtime Laguna Beach resident, opened the store in 2006 in the Old Pottery Place, a small shopping center in the building formerly occupied by the Pottery Shack. Her husband, Joe Hanauer, owns the entire complex, which features seven other shops as well as office space.

With a staff of eight employees, Hanauer does her best to give the store a neighborhood feel. The area behind the front door features a rack in the shape of the Main Beach lifeguard tower, while the shelves sport handwritten notes offering the staff's latest recommendations. Laguna Beach Books' website includes a "Top Sellers" page listing local favorites.

Last month, Hanauer got a choice thumbs-up for her enterprise: The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce gave it the Spirit of Laguna Award for Retail Store of the Year.

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