The Raven bookstore
The 20-year story of The Raven Bookstore has reached its cliffhanger moment.
A previously announced deal for three area residents to buy the venerable independent bookstore in downtown Lawrence has fallen through. It is a plot twist that has left the heroine in mortal danger.
"We just don't know what we're going to do," said Mary Lou Wright, who along with Pat Kehde founded the store at 6 E. Seventh St. two decades ago. "We're certainly committed to keeping it open for a while because it is full of merchandise. But for the long term, we're not making any promises."
Wright said a deal to sell the business to Kelly Barth, Lee Henry and Nora Kaschube fell through last week. Barth, who still works at the store, confirmed the demise of the deal Monday, but declined to say much else.
"The partnership dissolved and there isn't one to take its place," Barth said.
Wright said she and Kehde once again are looking for another buyer, and they are both old enough to retire and would like to do so. "We think it might be a good business for somebody who is retiring to buy and run in their retirement," Wright said. "But we've already run it for 20 years, so we don't want to run it in ours."
Wright said if the store doesn't survive, she thinks Lawrence will have lost more than just an outlet for the latest in mysteries, upmarket fiction and quaint works of history.
She said the store has been an important venue for new local writers to get their work out to the public because The Raven isn't constrained by a corporate buying policy. She also said the store has gained a reputation as a place that gladly takes requests for special orders.
"Is there still a place for an independent bookstore in today's world?" Wright asked. "I sure hope so."
She points to a bookmark that somehow made its way to The Raven after being printed by an Alaska independent bookstore. It sums up why she thinks Lawrence ought to care about the future of the store.
"It says that independent bookstores prove that people are still thinking," Wright said.