Hoping to avoid final chapter, Kelly’s Books looks for help

Customer Heloise Schaser, left, of Prunedale speaks with Kelly's Books owner Kelly Pleskunas. — Todd Guild/Register-Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE — Anyone who has walked into Kelly’s Books in Watsonville will likely learn a few fundamental facts: first, if owner Kelly Pleskunas doesn’t have the books they seek, she likely can get them within a few days.

More importantly, shoppers also know that Pleskunas creates an atmosphere in which customers are greeted as friends, and canine companions are not only welcome, but can expect dog treats doled out from a box kept behind the counter.

All of this makes Kelly’s Books an anachronism in an era where big-box stores have all but gutted the entrepreneurial mom-and-pop spirit on which the U.S. business community was founded.

Meanwhile, growing reliance on online ordering from mega-corporations such as Amazon has further led to the demise of countless small, privately owned bookstores.

Now, Pleskunas is fighting to keep her store open after lackluster Christmas sales have made it hard to pay her suppliers. She has asked for community help via the fundraising website GoFundMe: www.gofundme.com/f/kelly039s-books

“I don’t ever ask for help, but I figure people might be a little surprised if I just closed,” she said. “I need some help. I’m determined to keep this little store open.”

Pleskunas said that shopping at local businesses is about more than showing loyalty to the owners. It is also a way to support workers and keep tax revenue in the community.

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, more than half of all U.S. households are subscribed to the membership program Amazon Prime.

And according to a report by Civic Economics and the American Booksellers Association, Amazon’s massive reach into American retail led to 62,000 shops being displaced in 2018, and 900,000 retail jobs lost. The report also noted an estimated $7 billion in lost tax revenue nationwide during that year.

Pleskunas said that coming in to the store – and coming back to pick up special-order books – is worth the time.

“What a great way to meet your neighbor,” she said. “I can also suggest something if you need help. Books are an adventure for the young and old.”

Kelly’s Books has already been the subject of its own saga. In 2016, Pleskunas closed the 23-year-old store, which was then called Crossroads Books, after she and seven other businesses were evicted to make way for the Kaiser Permanente complex.

She reopened just seven months later in the Watsonville Square shopping center.

Already, Pleskunas has received several donations from her customers hoping they can help keep the shop open.

“I can’t thank the donors and the people who continue to support me enough,” she said. “It makes me happy to have a bookstore in such a great community.”

Watsonville resident Barbara Smith said she has been a customer since the bookstore was located across Main Street at the Crossroads Shopping Center. She added that Pleskunas is always willing to recommend a good book.

“I can always finds something here to read,” she said. “I really believe we need to have local bookstores.”

A former elementary school teacher, Marge Davis said she likes Pleskunas’s children’s section, and said her ever-changing supply of small gift items is perfect for seasonal shopping.

“It’s a wonderful place,” she said.

•••

Kelly’s Books is located at 1838 Main Street in Watsonville Square.

It is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday. For information, call 728-4139.

For information, or to make a donation, visit www.gofundme.com/f/kelly039s-books.

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