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Residents Take to Facebook to Protest Barnes & Noble's Departure

More than 1,800 people have joined the "Save Our Encino Barnes & Noble" page, where they're also threatening to boycott the incoming CVS drugstore.

As news of the closing of the Barnes & Noble store in the Encino Marketplace travels through town, residents are venting anger and disappointment online and threatening to boycott the CVS drugstore that is now planned for the space.

A Facebook page created two weeks ago by resident Robin Permaul has tallied more than 1,800 fans, some of whom have posted comments demanding the mall's owner, Caruso Affiliated, halt the bookstore's departure. Others have posted threats of boycotting the CVS if it moves in.

"It was pretty surprising to me how quick word got out on this," said Permaul, a health and life insurance broker. "I thought, if enough people band together, maybe we can make a difference. Everyone said they wanted a place to be able to vent, so I started a Facebook page. I didn't realize how big this would get."

In the past two weeks people in town have mobilized support for the Barnes & Noble. In addition to commenting online, they have sent e-mails to Rick Caruso, the billionaire president and CEO of Caruso Affiliated.

"Rick Caruso sold out to the highest bidder and never thought about the community," Susie Daniels wrote on the Facebook page. "It's all about the almighty dollar. I love our Barnes & Noble. The last thing we need is another drugstore."

Caruso responded in e-mails to some residents who contacted him, and also on the Facebook page, saying the bookstore's leaving was totally the decision of the Barnes & Noble company.

"There is no doubt that Barnes & Noble is a wonderful bookstore and an asset to the community," Caruso wrote. "I wanted them at Encino Marketplace when we first opened the center in 1994. I have a Barnes & Noble at almost all my other properties. Please know that I have no desire to lose Barnes & Noble. However, the truth is that they have decided to close their Encino store. Last year we reduced their rent to encourage them to stay open, nonetheless, in the end they decided to close due to a lack of sales at this location. I love having bookstores on our properties. They are a great amenity for the community and a great core tenant for us, but unfortunately we must accept that Barnes & Noble recognizes the retail book landscape has changed and is examining store closings, strategic alternatives and even a possible sale. Thank you for taking the time to write us. I am sorry I cannot provide you a better answer; please know we all share your frustration.

 Sincerely, 
Rick J. Caruso."

But the CEO's remarks did not silence the protests.

Permaul, 38, said she thinks the community has a fair gripe with Caruso. She posted a second letter template to the Facebook page in response to his explanation. Permaul urged fans of the page to copy the letter and send it to Caruso.

An excerpt of the letter reads:

"Given your tremendous power and influence in the community as well as your long relationship with Barnes & Noble, I am confident that you have the ability to reverse a decision that has been made without consideration of the community's best interest at heart," the letter reads. "Saving Barnes & Noble would not only benefit Encino, but your center as well. If you have been reading the comments on Facebook, it should be clear by now that no one needs or wants another pharmacy in the vicinity."

"As you know," Permaul continued, "Encino is an established community of intelligent, connected, affluent individuals who will not hesitate to speak with their wallets if their voices go unheard. I am appealing to you because you care about our community and because you are the only one who can convince Barnes & Noble to stay open at your location."

Even a representative for City Councilman Paul Koretz responded to the social media brigade's campaign.

Resident Jodie LeVitus Francisco said she sent a letter to Koretz expressing her concern, and she received this response from his planning deputy, Shawn Bayliss:

"Thank you for including us in your message to Mr. Caruso regarding the Barnes & Noble here in Encino," Bayliss said. "There has been a universal feeling of loss with our local bookstore leaving us; many other communities around us also are saddened by losing their local bookstores. The council member certainly has stated many times that he would like for Barnes & Noble to stay in Encino, but we also understand that it is a very difficult time for bookstores with the tough retail economy combined with the specific difficulties facing all book sellers (online books, etc.). We encourage Mr. Caruso to make every effort to keep Barnes & Noble in Encino, but understand that no matter how attractive the offer is, it simply may not be enough. Please feel free to keep us updated on your community's efforts."

Permaul said a Barnes & Noble representative returned her phone call last week, when the Facebook page had only about 400 fans.

"They were very short, but they were clear to point out that they have a good relationship with Caruso," Permaul said. "From a PR standpoint, that's what I expected them to say. But I think they're watching [the Facebook page]. Caruso's watching it and CVS is aware of it too."

"We're certainly aware that there are unhappy residents who are upset that Barnes & Noble is leaving," said director of CVS public relations, Mike DeAngelis. "It's unfortunate, but it has nothing to do with CVS. As I understand it, it's a matter between the landlords and their current tenant, which happens to be Barnes & Noble."

DeAngelis added that CVS has already signed a lease with Caruso Affiliated and the drugstore will be opening sometime in 2011.

Encino Patch left two voicemail messages with Barnes & Noble's communications department requesting comment, but did not receive a response.

Permaul also complained that she and other residents hadn't been informed or consulted about the bookstore's planned closure until after the Encino Neighborhood Council approved CVS' application to move into the space.

In June the neighborhood council approved CVS' application, under the condition that alcohol sales would be allowed only between the hours of 7 a.m. and midnight. A month later, CVS asked the council to make its alcohol-sales hours consistent with those at the nearby Ralphs market, from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. The motion passed 10-6 with two abstentions.

"We weren't aware of the Encino council meeting," Permaul said. "I don't know why we weren't mailed anything. Unless you were touching the [Encino Community Center] you didn't get notice of it."

The neighborhood council's meeting announcements, agendas and minutes are posted on its website. (Encino Patch will be posting the council's meeting agendas and reminders as well.)

Neighborhood council President Louis Krokover said he is not happy the bookstore is leaving.

"As far as how the ENC feels—well, the case matter was presented to us several times over the past six months and when the dust finally settled a majority of the ENC board voted in favor of the new tenant CVS," Krokover said.

"Bottom line is this," he added. "Our community does not like change, whether it is for the good or not so good. Furthermore, our community only chooses to voice their opinions when the hat has already fallen off the head piece."

Elaine Sabih October 07, 2010 at 02:56 AM
I think this is the worst news I could receive. It was always my haven to visit Barnes & Noble, which I did and still do at least twice a week. To be replaced by another CVS store is most disturbing. I can make this promise: I will NEVER set one foot in the CVS store.
Audrey Fox October 07, 2010 at 07:38 PM
While I understand it is the right of Barnes and Noble to close what they feel is an under-performing store--I would think they would at least LISTEN to residents that love the store.Perhaps splitting the size in half--BUT--to have another DRUG STORE come in to the location--is outrageous.It's the LAST thing that is needed there.
JoAnn Freedman October 07, 2010 at 08:48 PM
This is horrible. Another drugstore? Really?! This is not what this community needs. We NEED a bookstore. This is a wonderful bookstore where I became a B&N member. I love to browse around with my coffee, and I almost always leave with a purchase. How can you not? There is so much variety in this store. There are lectures, book reviews from authors, kids reading and interacting with other families. It really is a small community within a bookstore. I am heartbroken that this has happened or will happen. What is happening to Encino? First the strip/bar was approved and opened a few blocks away and now another drugstore? What is the Encino Council thinking?! This will be just another strip mall on Ventura blvd. and not the special marketplace that it is today. What a shame!
Rachel Lipman October 08, 2010 at 02:21 AM
The truth, according to B&N employees, is that Caruso did NOT try to get B&N to stay. He didn't just double their rent this year, he TRIPLED it, all to grab a few more dollars to line his pockets. He knew B&N couldn't compete in dollars with CVS, so he booted them out, to the detriment of the community and of all the other stores in that mall.
Lisa Gilford October 08, 2010 at 04:21 AM
I know YUK! a drugstore is a pale replacement for the community feeling, poetry readings, awesome books and music and gifts and cards of barnes and noble. wahhhh. there is no way i will ever forgive CVS. i already hate their cheap frames and flip flops. elaine I'm with you. I think I can live my whole life without ever stepping foot in CVS and probably never ralphs either.
Nathalie October 08, 2010 at 04:51 AM
Wow! Pretty unbelievable that the President of the neighborhood council would take to a local newsletter and accuse residents of not taking an active interest in their community. Where else does the Encino neighborhood council posts their agenda? (They are required to post at 3 physical locations in addition to their website per DONE.)
Brendan October 09, 2010 at 06:22 AM
Id bet there is a wonderful local bookstore that would be glad to get the business of the closed down B&N. Id also bet that half these people going on about "the almighty dollar" and "community" drive by this mom and pop bookshop on their way to work everyday and never even notice it. If they cared about community, they would shop at a local bookstore.
stina October 09, 2010 at 02:33 PM
Brendan, You've read my mind. All I could think was "these people are complaining about losing one big box for another? Why not just buy your books from a local book dealer that's isn't being paid minimum wage to fake smile at you in the warehouse of books they really know nothing about while sipping on overpriced poorly brewed coffee?" Big box stores are not community builders. Buy local and support the people that truly want to live and work with you and not just up and leave when national sales are down.
Lisa Gilford October 09, 2010 at 02:56 PM
tina, you must have never shopped at B&N! the people that work there are totally knowledgable and sincerely friendly. and they have all sorts of school events and poetry readings. that they don't charge anything for. They have a lot of book readings for kids and a space where moms can take their little ones to just hang out with other kids or read books. My daughter has done her homework there. you really can't compare B&N to a heartless big box store because they are not.
Rachel Lipman October 09, 2010 at 05:00 PM
Brendan, Please tell us about this local book store? The irony is that when stores like B&N first came in, they pushed out all those local book stores and we were angry about that. Now we're clinging to the last book store anywhere in Encino, which is B&N. I think your heart is in the right place, but if you drive the streets of Encino and all the surrounding neighborhoods, you will not see ONE independent bookseller. It's true - hand to God - we all were sad when "Pages" in Tarzana closed, and that was the last one.
SALLY WEBER October 09, 2010 at 06:21 PM
Hi everyone, We have their attention!! These companies are watching what we are doing! We can affect a change. Even if we cannot ultimately save B & N, we can help have a significant impact on Caruso's, B & N and CVS's future business practices in our community. This is why we need as many people as possible to spread the word and attend the protest on the 17th!! Thank you so much for all your support in our efforts to save Barnes & Noble, stop CVS and most importantly, let Caruso know that we represent the sentiment of Encino. We know how busy you are in your day to day lives. We need to mobilize all our supporters for our scheduled protest for Sunday, October 17th @ 10am at the corner of Hayvenhurst and Ventura Boulevard. Come to our meeting this Monday, October 11th @ 8pm inside of Barnes & Noble (in the children's area). We will organize getting our protest out to the community so we can have a large presence for the media.

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