Jan. 1 marks the beginning of a new chapter in the storied life of self-proclaimed book addict Michael Bearden.
In 2017, he’ll be shuttering Petaluma Paperbacks, the used bookstore he’s poured his heart into since he purchased it more than a decade ago. Instead of putting the collection of more than 12,000 books on the shelves up for sale, he said he’d prefer to pass on his literary legacy, free of charge, to a successor of his choosing.
“Instead of selling the store, I’m going to give it to someone who will go out and get a lease — they need good credit to sign a commercial lease, and I will tell them that I can’t move it again myself, but I sure know how it works,” he said, adding that he will also hand off the website, registers and other aspects of the business. “I’ll be there to be a consultant as long as they need help. I need books in my life.”
The 69-year-old bought the used bookstore from its founder, Howard Brown, in 2003 for $60,000, he said. Since the 800 Petaluma Blvd. South building where the bookstore is now housed was sold last year, and as Bearden is grappling with health issues, he decided it was time to turn the page.
While he’s not sure what the business is worth now, he said what’s most valuable to him is keeping the store in the city it has served since 1978.
“My interest is in seeing the bookstore stay here in Petaluma,” he said, adding that the shop has become a fixture in the community, drawing loyal customers from as far as San Francisco, Point Reyes, and Napa. “This way I can have some say over who I give it to.”
He’s seeking a financially stable person or group to helm the store, plan budgets, find a space in Petaluma and make a legitimate game plan that will ensure the longevity of the future of the only dedicated used bookstore left in Petaluma.
When Bearden took over the bookstore, he retained the business model from its previous owners – offering most books at half-off of the publisher’s price. Readers trade in their books, and can apply trade in credits to a purchase for up to 70 percent of the total sale price, a deal that appeals to avid readers and one that he hopes the new owners will continue, he said.
Bearden, who had been a regular customer of the store before he took over ownership, grew up with a mother who was deeply involved in theater. Tapping into his love for entertainment, he’d worked handling lighting at various venues around Sonoma County, illuminating the set for legends like Jerry Garcia, Tom Waits and David Grisman.
He moved to Petaluma from Freestone in 1980 to take a post at Sonoma State University as a stage tech, and he worked his way up to the role of production manager before drawing the curtain on his career to run his beloved bookstore, a change of pace that he said he welcomed.
Since his childhood in the 1950s in Texas, he’s loved literature, learning to read before he went to school. His family didn’t have a TV, so books were his golden ticket to another world.
This story originally appeared on Petaluma360.com at petaluma360.com/entertainment/6465611-181/final-chapter-for-petaluma-bookstore.