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Hi. My name is SÊ Reed. I’m on the left, in that half-car over there. The gentleman on the right is my business partner, shea M gauer. We own {open}, an independent used bookstore, performance space & art gallery in Long Beach, CA.


{open} focuses on “The Art of the Printed Word.” We buy, sell & trade interesting used books in a variety of genres & carry a hand-picked collection of new & local publications from independent authors & small presses. We also carry used records, prints & originals from independent artists, & music from local & touring independent musicians. We’re located in a beautiful little space on a street called “Retro Row” after its collection of vintage-inspired shops, bars & restaurants. But {open} didn’t start out here.

This is the story of {open}.


Shea & I met in 2002 at the downtown Long Beach branch of local used bookstore chain Book Baron, next door to the formidable Acres of Books (RIP). We shared a life-long affection for books, & had worked at bookstores for most of our working lives.We often talked about the type of bookstore we would create if we could: the books we would carry (& the books we wouldn’t carry), the types of events we would hold, & the local music & art we loved that had no place to be showcased. So when the news came that the Book Baron would be closing down, it seemed that we had to at least try. We applied for, & got, a small business start-up loan, secured a three-year lease for a beat-up storefront a few streets away on Linden Avenue & in September of 2003 started rennovating the space.

We opened {open} November 15, 2003.


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Our space at 144 Linden Ave. was awesome. Like much of downtown Long Beach, the Lafayette building had fallen into disrepair, & we restored the space lovingly. We began organizing arts events & festivals in our shop & in our neighborhood. Our backroom opened up into what had originally been the kitchen & domed ballroom of the Lafayette hotel & we began hosting larger music & literary events in what we called, fittingly, the Kitchen & Dome Room. Both spaces were incredibly unique & we made proposal after proposal to the Lafayette’s commerical committee to allow us to officially develop the space, which had been empty for more than a decade. After months of negotiation, we came to tough-but-agreeable terms. We were thrilled. Then we asked to renew the lease option on our original space, which was ending in a few months. We had thought it was a done deal, but the new lease terms doubled our rent. It was an impossible demand.


We were devastated. Suddenly, {open} had no home. We were just getting started ... we didn’t want to close. But we were facing a lot of tough questions. How were we going to find another space that could fit our books, our budget & our vision? How would we build the entire store from scratch, again? As our lease deadline loomed, we heard of a space opening up on 4th Street, an eclectic strip of vintage shops. The space was smaller, but the building’s owner was willing to work with us. We signed a five-year lease, dismantled our old space, rennovated our new space & packed & unpacked thousands of books.

We re-opened {open} in April 2007 & things got back to being awesome.


Over the last eight years, {open} has proudly been home to a unique & inspiring range of artistic & creative events. We’ve hosted readings for local & independent authors, poets & some of the best small presses in America. We’ve screened award-winning independent film shorts & plays from local theater troupes. We’ve exhibited exceptional contemporary visual artists. We’ve hosted hundreds of independent musicians, from indie heavyweights to obscure sound art collectives. We’ve featured debut shows from unknown artists & unique collaborations from internationally known musicians. We’ve been named as the Best of LA & the Best of OC. And over the last eight years, we’ve sold books. A lot of really cool books. To a lot of really cool people.


At the end of the month, there was never much left over, but for the most part, {open} was always able to pay its own bills. With six days of shifts to fill, multiple events a week & a small collection of jobs between us, it seemed like we were always working. Thankfully, {open} never seemed much like work. Even if we couldn’t enact all our grand plans right away, we were content to grow slowly & steadily. Then, in the fall of 2009, we began to hear rumblings of “economic instability”. As we headed into 2010, they weren’t just rumblings ... suddenly, {open}’s ends weren’t meeting anymore. We starting working full-time jobs in addition to running the shop. We cut our hours, scaled back our event calendar & stopped buying new inventory. Our limited resources became scarce resources.

But we were determined to stay open.


Somehow, we’re still here. And things seem to be getting better. But it’s been five years & our lease is expiring soon. We have a lot of plans waiting in the wings to take {open} to the next level, but like most plans, they require time, energy & financial support. So after eight-&-a-half-years, we again find ourselves facing some tough questions. Some are economical ... is there enough desire amongst the general public to support brick-&mortar bookstores? Some are more speculative ... will physical books & bookstores maintain relevance in the face of digital technology? Some are philosophical ... what does it mean to be a physically defined creative space in a world with virtually limitless creative possibilities? Of course, these all come down to one simple question...

Should we keep {open} open?


Tell us what you think at

thestoryofopen.com or by visiting {open}

2226 E. 4th St. Long Beach 90814

Scan here to tell us if you think we should keep {open} open.

the story of {open}: part I // Written & designed by SĂŠ Reed & shea M gauer // February 2012


PHOTOS, clockwise from top-left: COVER: Open signs // PAGE 2: Sé Reed & shea M gauer in a prop car, March 2004 2. Open sign 3. Sphincter stuffed creature by Gabo Gaete 4. Books // PAGE 3: 1. {open}, May 2009 (photo by Cara Elizabeth Wysong) 2. {open} // PAGE 4: 1. Sé & Shea’s last night at the Book Baron, September 2003 2. Sé & Shea rennovating {open}, October 2003 3. Sé & Shea, November 2003 // PAGE 5: 1. Interior of {open} at 144 Linden Ave. 2. {open} at 144 Linden Ave. (collage by Glenn Bach) 3.{open} (collage by Tim Butts) // PAGE 6: “Safe in Sound” window display, August 2004 2. Ray Barbee & the Mattson 2, May 2006 3. Altered books by Tara Tavi, April 2004 4. Zine installation by Faith Coloccia, November 2004 5. Ikey Owens of Free Moral Agents, May 2006 // PAGE 7: 1. Skullphone installation, January 2006 2. Davy Rothbart of FOUND Magazine, November 2005 3. Sé & Shea moving books, March 2007 4. Bill Tapia, April 2005 // PAGE 8: 1. Moving in to new {open}, March 2007 2. 4th Street (photo by Chance Artworks) // PAGE 9: 1: Matt Wignall, June 2007 2. “You Are Beautiful” installation, from youarebeautiful.com, June 2007 3. Jonathan Richman, December 2007 4. The crowd at a We Barbarians show, January 2008 // PAGE 10: 1. Derrick Brown, December 2010 2. Customers browse during “I AM. YOU ARE.” book release in February 2010 (photo by Michelle Arree) 3. Illustrations by Dave Van Patten 4. Jessica Dobson, August 2009 5. The audience at a Write Bloody book release, August 2009 6. Matty Byloos installs his exhibit, March 2010 // PAGE 11: 1. Billy Corgan, Ysanne Spevack, Dave Navarro, Mark Weitz & Mark Tulin from Spirits in the Sky, August 2009 2. Mindy Netiffee, July 2009 3. “Homo Insectus” by Andrew Tong, September 2010 // PAGE 12: Sage Francis & Free Moral Agents soundcheck for their national tour kickoff show, April 2010 2. Zee Avi is interviewed at {open} by CurrentTV in 2009 3. Taylor Mali, September 2009 // PAGE 13. 1. {open} hits a brick wall 2. “Predator Instinct” by Suzanne Walsh, March 2011 // PAGE 14: 1. Jay Pezzelle of Whodini Handmade conducts a screen-printing workshop. 2. dublab at {open}’s five-year anniversary, November 2008 3. Sé & Shea (photo by Thomas McConville) 4. Customers browse during “I AM. YOU ARE.” book release in February 2010 (photo by Michelle Arree) // PAGE 15-16: Open signs


the story of {open}: part I  

{open} is an independent used bookstore, performance space & art gallery in Long Beach, CA. {open} focuses on “The Art of the Printed Word.”...

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