Open Letters from Dick Kolbert

A letter to developer Mark Friedman

Dear Mr. Friedman,

Count me among the many who feel downtown Davis is already well served with bookstores, and needs no johnny-come-lately interloper to put these existing ones out-of-business. Davis' charm is in smallness, in Mama and Poppa stores where proprietors know customer names and preferences. Such establishments are, of course, "endangered species" in today's big chain-store world. Why hasten their demise. Why not allow some "points of light" to survive in this in creas ing ly big, impersonal retail world? For people who don't believe that "small is beautiful" or in the independent booksellers as a bastion of free thought and expression, Borders and Barnes & Noble are a short drive away in Sacramento. I write not as a resident but as a frequent visitor who values the charm and vitality of down town Davis, with its small, individualized shops and stores. Borders will upset the delicate ecology of this distinctive place.

Dick Kolbert

A letter to "Davis Enterprise" Editor, Debbie Davis

Dear Ms. Davis (Davis Enterprise editor),

My son was a student at UC Davis and I would often visit him from Oakland where we live. On cool spring evenings we would walk the streets of dowtown Davis licking ice cream cones and, when finished, drop into one of the fine downtown bookstores - Mansion Books (now The Next Chapter), The Avid Reader, Bogey's, and Gayle's (now The Avid Reader Children's Store) to browse. We were content. Downtown Davis within walking distance of the university fulfilled all our needs without resorting to a car.

Now all this is being threatened by the construction of a massive mall on the town's periphery, and the inclusion of a Borders Superstore. Make no mistake: Borders will impact heavily on the downtown bookstores and very possibly put them out of business. I know for I am in the book business and I see time and again old established bookstores that have served communities well fold within a year or so of megastore openings. Just a few days ago I heard that a fine independent bookstore in Tucson, The Haunted Bookshop, was closing its doors, yet another vicim of a Border's opening nearby.

What makes Davis special is its viable downtown. Of the splendid mix of retail shops there, bookstores are an essential component. A downtown without small independent bookstores where owners and clerks know their patrons names and book preferences would severely diminish its amenity, its charm, its uniqueness.

I urge you to use your significant influence to oppose the intrusion of Borders or any superstore in the Davis vicinity. Sacramento is loaded with them, and will get still more. Those who favor such stores can drive there almost as easily as to the Davis mall.

Help keep Davis' vital center strong.

Dick Kolbert
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