Local Icon Closes After Nearly 50 Years

Logos, once a hub for enthusiasts of the arts, shut its doors for good in September, leaving an empty space on Pacific Avenue and in people’s hearts. Logos was the largest independent used bookstore on the central coast, as well as selling a wide variety of CDs, DVDs, and vinyl records. A Santa Cruz landmark, it fostered a sense of community around a love of books.

Since the summer of 1969, John Livingston had run Logos, but at the age of seventy, he chose to close the forty-eight-year-old icon or face a loss of profit for the second year in a row. Logos had survived the 1989 earthquake as well as the rise of digital media, but in the end succumbed to financial pressures from the rise of online retailers and a lack of support. As quoted by the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Livingston said he lost many casual customers. “Our core customers are fantastic. It’s that next level that has abandoned us…Browsing in a bookstore was once considered a form of entertainment. I think that’s going away, particularly with the younger generation. They’ll come in, looking for specific things and you can do that here. But the point of the store is to spend some time here, browse and maybe discover something you never would have found otherwise.”

Another aspect that attributed to Logos’ closing was Livingston’s increasing desire for retirement. At seventy years old, Livingston wants to do more than run a bookstore, and would rather spend time on other things. In response to the Good Times, he spoke of trying to sell the building. “Essentially, the biggest problem is the rents downtown are high, and I own the building, and because I’m trying to retire, I need to get at least a reasonable market rate for the space,” he said. “You know, I started thinking about the practical aspects.”

One of the biggest things the closing of Logos will affect is its former staff. At the time of closing, Logos employed roughly 25 people, many of whom had worked there for a decade or more. With only two other fully-staffed bookshops in town, well-paying jobs that use their experience are hard to find. Janina Larenas, 38, had worked at Logos for twelve years as the head buyer for new books. She believes the seeds of Logos’ demise were sown a decade ago. “Starting 10 years ago when the big box stores started to close, there were a number of changes Logos needed to make to adapt to the new retail and social demands,” she said. “Unfortunately, those changes were not made.”

Larenas believes that a new store selling used books in Santa Cruz is still viable, as long as it learns from the mistakes of those before it. “I think there is space for another bookstore in Santa Cruz. The success rate of new book stores is high. The bookstores that are succeeding right now are being curated by the staff to create a specific experience.”

The closing of Logos is inevitably going cause a shift in where people buy, and its effects are already starting to be seen. In its absence, many core customers need to shop elsewhere in Santa Cruz to satisfy their needs. “With Logos still open and liquidating its inventory, I have not seen a change in sales since Logos announced it will close,” said Paul Speraw a week before Logos shut its doors. Speraw owns Metavinyl, a retailer for used and new vinyl records downtown. “However, since they closed their buy desk, I have seen more collections of used records come in the door.”

Speraw, along with most other locals, is sad to see an excellent downtown business go. “I’m sad to see Logos close. As a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz, I have spent a lot of time browsing its aisles, discovering new books and new music. It’s a real loss for the community, but hopefully also an opportunity for someone to be creative and open a store that will continue to support Santa Cruz’s love of books.”

When asked if he had been facing pressures from online retailers, he remained optimistic. “Online retailers are a significant part of today’s world, but there will always be a place for independent brick-and-mortars,” he said. “The algorithms of online stores can’t replace the experience of a well-curated selection or the help of knowledgeable and engaged staff.”

By Jordan King

Image via Logos

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