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Iconic Bookstore Closes Storied Chapter in Santa Monica

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 15, 2015 -- After half a century in Santa Monica, Hennessey + Ingalls Bookstore on Wilshire Boulevard is leaving the city and relocating to downtown Los Angeles, chased out by rising rents and declining sales in the internet age, a representative said.

The 52-year-old art and architecture store is leaving Santa Monica for a 5,000-square-foot bookstore space downtown at One Santa Fe, a new mixed-use complex  across from the Southern California Institute of Architecture in the downtown Los Angeles Arts District.

It will close in February and re-open the same month in Los Angeles, said Brett Hennessey, son of owner Mark Hennessey and the third generation of the Hennessey family to own and run the store at 214 Wilshire Boulevard.

The specialty store has been popular with everyday customers but was also a go-to stop for architectural firms, museums, art galleries, graphic designers, interior designers, collectors, artists and students in arts- and architecture-related fields.

Still, Hennessey said sales had seen a deep decline with the growing popularity of

“We had 50, 60 percent less business,” he said. “That kind of downturn doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for us, but that we had to restructure and reshape.”

To cut costs, the store is downsizing and paying much less for a lease. Rent at the current location ran between $5 a square foot and $6 a square foot, he said.

“The rent was getting to be too much,” he said. “We’re just a mom-and-pop bookstore.”

Hennessey  did not specify the cost of rent at the One Santa Fe location, but said it was half as expensive as some locations the owners looked at, including those in Culver City, Westwood and Mid-Wilshire.

The new location is about 3,000 square feet smaller than its current site. Hennessey said he was a “little sad” to leave Santa Monica but that the bookstore’s new home will attract the type of arts-oriented crowd it needs to thrive.

“It’s a younger, hipper crowd,” he said. “It’s this little bubble of like-minded people.”

His new neighbors at the complex should help, too. He said they will include trendy Café Gratitude and several upscale restaurants, high-end clothing boutiques and a 5,000-square-foot organic grocery store.

One Santa Fe’s website touts it as home to downtown’s eclectic Arts District and “comprised of luxury apartment homes and carefully curated boutiques and eateries. Designed by world-renowned architect Michael Maltzan, every detail fosters a new kind of city living.”

The reportedly $160 million One Santa Fe opened last fall and also includes 438 apartments, about 90 percent of which are now occupied.

Hennessey and Ingalls first opened its doors in Santa Monica in 1963 on Pico Boulevard, later relocating to the 3rd Street Promenade for 22 years before moving to its Wilshire location.  It bills itself as the largest art and architecture bookstore in the Western United States. It is also believed to be the last independent bookstore in Santa Monica.

A second Hennessey and Ingalls bookstore, which was located in Hollywood, closed last February.

The bookstore had been trying to get out of its lease for about two years, but it took that long for the landlord to find a replacement – a restaurant, he said.

The move is particularly upsetting because it seems to be another chapter in an ongoing battle to survive by mom and pop stores, faced first by big-box chain stores and now the internet, Hennessey said.

“All these people are using e-books and Kindles while they (independent book stores) are going by the wayside,” Hennessey said. “I see the value of it. I’m a consumer too. But they are doing a disservice to themselves and to the bookstores when they don’t support independent bookstores.”

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