Archive for Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Raven Bookstore’s future a real-life mystery

October 23, 2007


Raven Bookstore seeks new owner

A previously announced deal for three area residents to buy the independent Raven Bookstore in downtown Lawrence falls through. Enlarge video

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.


Oracle_of_Rhode 10 years, 7 months ago

The Raven is a Lawrence treasure, and its demise would go a long way to completely Wal-Martizing this city. Hopefully, somebody with deep pockets will step forward to ensure its survival. Or, perhaps it can become employee owned. I would hate to imagine downtown without an independent locally owned bookstore. We'd be left reading what the corporate buyers over at Borders thought was safe enough.

HelenBrown 10 years, 7 months ago

The Raven is the a quaint little store, but they can't compete with Borders.

nobody1793 10 years, 7 months ago

It ain't borders that took my business from local bookstores. Its Amazon. I end up having to special order so many things that I might as well do it directly. No brick-and-mortar store can provide that kind of inventory, no matter who owns it.

salad 10 years, 7 months ago

This is true. Amazon is amazing and cheap. I got almost every single one of my text books there and ending up almost breaking even on total text book outlay. I love the Raven bookstore can't find local authors at Borders (McLiterature central).

badger 10 years, 7 months ago

I think one of the biggest problems is the demise of casual reading. So few people say, "Hey, I need something to read. I'll head down to the bookstore and poke around until I find something that looks interesting."

Instead, they've got their Oprah's Book Club Book, and their copy of The Secret or whatever else everyone they know is reading, and when you just read one or maybe two books a month to keep up with other people's conversational references and be able to say, "Of course!" when they ask "Have you read the latest fad book?" and you're overscheduled all to heck, makes a lot more sense than driving down to a local bookstore.

People don't read for fun anymore. They read to 'self-improve', to be in on the communal information, to be able to say they've read 'the' book, to read the same thing some Soprano or Desperate Housewife or character from another TV show is reading.

Stop reading books assigned to you by the media like a 'project' on your to-do list. Go into a bookstore and say, "Sell me a really good and engrossing book," tell them whether you want funny or sad, fiction or nonfiction, lighthearted or thought-provoking, and then carry that book around with you to read whenever you get five minutes of down time. Read on your lunch hour, read before bed. If you're really too overbooked to read for leisure every day, schedule yourself for a block of six hours on a Saturday afternoon, pick up a #&^$# book, climb a (#$&^#& tree, and enjoy the (#@&$^#& thing. Buy books from people who've read what they're recommending, and read them.

bastet 10 years, 7 months ago


The Raven has survived the existence of a Borders around the corner for over ten years. That survival is based on the knowledgeable and helpful people who run the store who are willing to go the extra mile to do what Badger suggests: help people find great books to read. There is a place for Borders in Lawrence, but there's a place for the Raven, too. There's a place for Dillon's and Hyvee and a place for the Merc, for Kohl's and Weaver's. It shouldn't be a question of either/or. If you know you want the latest Oprah book club book, you can walk right into Borders and get it. But if you want to talk with people about books, find a new author who writes something sort of like the one you've just finished, get some advice about what to read, have help finding that book they talked about on NPR last week, but you can't exactly remember the name, then go to the Raven--at least for a while.

zettapixel 10 years, 7 months ago

How much do they want? I might know someone that would buy it!

kugrad 10 years, 7 months ago

I think the survival of the Raven has been due to the niche of mysteries and the stocking of titles that are not at Borders. When one wants a good mystery, one often needs a recommendation. Each new writer one encounters has a small set of published books. Once you've read those, you need to find another author. That is where the Raven staff are very helpful - matching books to your interests and tastes. I also shop Borders and Amazon, and all are helpful in thier own ways, but neither of them can match the personalized service of the Raven, particularly if you are a repeat customer they come to know over time. I hope a viable business solution can be found.

toefungus 10 years, 7 months ago

Return on investment would not be the issue with owning Raven. It would be the return of your investment. You could not run this store and make more than you could earn for the same amount of money invested in a US Treasury. It is a shame. Still, maybe someone will buy it for a hobby and would have the money to make payroll even when sales were not there to support it.

George_Braziller 10 years, 7 months ago

The different with Raven is Pat and Mary Lou will actually help you find a book or offer to order it for you. Most likely they have even READ it.

Go to Hastings or the Borders and all you'll get is maybe a grunt and a point in the general direction of where you might start to look.

Not everyone want's to buy their books on-line.

overthemoon 10 years, 7 months ago

Of my favorite books, a good many of them have come from the Raven when I visited with no idea what I might buy. Pat or Mary Lou would point out their current favorite, or an old favorite and it would become one of mine, too. Then there are the chats about the local community, what's up at the Lied Center, etc. These places are the heart of Lawrence. For those of you who are new to town or who never connected to the real thing, too bad. You missed a great place in a great time.

I'm going to buy a lottery ticket tomorrow. If I win I'm going to have a little chat with the Raven ladies!!

toefungus 10 years, 7 months ago

Ah, Hood's used books at 14th and Mass. I bought all my books there.

lunacydetector 10 years, 7 months ago

how much do they want to sell it for and how much is their rent? too bad the article doesn't mention anything?

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