New chapter opens for bookstores
by Anne Gilman
The proposed merger of two of Ojai's three bookstores has
been greeted with enthusiasm by the parties involved.
Entrepreneurs Elio Zarmati and Adriana Stadecker are in the process
of purchasing Table of Contents and Local Hero from Ed Elrod
and Bobby Houston, respectively.
Elrod took over the Table of Contents in January 1998 as a sister
bookstore to the one he owned in Ventura. Elrod and his partner,
Kent Wiegel, always ran the Ventura Bookstore (for 22 years)
with an eye on Ojai, knowing that it was a great book town.
"We helped Mitnee Duque open Table of Contents with the
understanding that we would have first right of refusal. Twelve
years later we had a chance to buy it, which we did, with the
idea of closing Ventura and settling down at TOC.
"Life made other plans, and Kent died unexpectedly in 1998
of advanced cancer. I began the process of closing the Ventura
Bookstore, and finding other career directions and the perfect
buyer for Table of Contents. The buyer takes over on Jan. 7 and
the career directions are being narrowed down to 47 choices from
Houston decided to sell after being swamped by work from the
success of his and partner Robert Hudson's film, "The Rosa
Parks Story." Their film, which is a contender for an Oscar
this year in the documentary category, led to an offer in December
from HBO to create a series based on the "Eye of the Prize."
"I can't do six things at the same time," Houston said,
"so the timing was perfect when Elio wanted to buy the bookstore.
Elio and Adriana are fine people with a keen love of Ojai and
Local Hero in particular. They are both avid readers and artists
in their own right, but equally important, they are successful
business people who will bring Local Hero to the next level of
excellence and vitality. I find both of them to be very warm,
funny and bright. I truly believe booksellers are the custodians
of culture. And anyone who wants to be in this business is committed
to that purpose, too."
Houston has owned the bookstore since 1995, and although he and
Elrod had frequently talked about working together, "We
just couldn't figure out how to do it," he said.
Over the next few months, businessman and filmmaker Zarmati,
and Stadecker, whose background includes executive positions
in technology companies, will focus their energies on how each
store can address Ojai's interests. "Each store will have
its own identity," Zarmati said. "We will be looking
to the community to direct us on what books they would like to
have on the shelves and what's missing now."
Zarmati, who has had businesses in Los Angeles and Europe, fell
in love with Ojai on his first visit here 25 years ago, and had
since dreamed of living and working here.
At last summer's Fourth of July celebration, when he learned
that Smith was interested in selling the Table of Contents, he
knew that this was the opportunity he had been waiting for. "Things
happen when the timing is right and not a day before," he
Zarmati and Stadecker then approached Huston about purchasing
Local Hero as well. Both Smith and Huston will remain on the
new venture's advisory board, and the current staff will continue
in each of the stores.
Houston saidhe had, "No regrets. It's still my favorite
place, and I expect to be there every day as a customer."
For Elrod, his only regret is " not having a chance to better
know many of the truly interesting people who also migrated to
Ojai for the same reasons I did." Folks can keep in touch
with Ed by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2003 The Ojai Valley News
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