An Open Letter to Andy Ross

Dear Andy:

Thank you for surrendering Cody’s to a corporation. I’m sure that Yohan, Inc., with its concentration on distributing foreign books and magazines, has the experience and the niche interest to keep the two remaining Cody’s stores truly independent. I’m positive they won’t turn the stores into crappy franchises no less distinct than a B. Dalton outlet. Sure.

But I know how you’ll justify all this, Mr. Ross. You didn’t sell out. You bought in. It was the “market,” after all, that killed off Cody’s. Not the fact that you took over Planet Hollywood’s old space on Stockton Street, which probably had a rent that was a shitload more expensive than the original Telegraph Avenue store that you so gracelessly killed. Fred Cody is spinning in his grave right around now. He never would have let this happen.

The fact of the matter is that you didn’t have the courage to tell people that you were ready to hang up your hat. You ran this transaction through fast — without trying to find a responsible buyer who gave a damn about books and bookstores. Someone who would carry the Cody’s legacy into the 21st century.

Well, I hope you’re sitting pretty on that small fortune. You didn’t even have the balls to talk to the Berkeley Daily Planet, the newspaper that broke the story. Instead, you farmed out the duties to poor Fred’s widow, Pat Cody, who had to begrudgingly remark that this was “a good thing.”

Well, it’s not a good thing, Andy. It’s not good that you let one of the greatest indie bookstores that ever graced the Bay Area die and placed what was left well on the path to ruins. It’s not good that you cower away and let others do your talking for you. It’s not good that you betrayed a Berkeley landmark the same way that Justin Herman killed the Fillmore in the 1960s or that Robert Moses tampered with New York.

Very truly yours,

Edward Champion


  1. Thanks Melissa for keeping the damaging gossip in check.

    Edward – while I understand the emotion behind your open letter, the knee jerk reaction speaks to why blogs are frequently the source of misinformation.

  2. I’ve read the press release and it is no less a knee-jerk reaction than my vitriolic open letter. This is, after all, what press releases are all about.

    Melissa: Explain to me in very clear terms just HOW Cody’s plans to remain committed to independence under the aegis of Yohan. Because frankly I’m not seeing it.

    To “love” Cody’s is simply not a sufficient response from CEO Hiroshi Kagawa. Developer Joe Sitt, for example, “loves” Coney Island, but that isn’t stopping him from trying to gut its appeal and transform the place into a noxious Vegas-like resort.


    I see no full facts at all here, Melissa. I see spin. But I’m happy to have my impressions rectified if you have a reasonable response that you might share with the Bay Area literary community.

  3. Give Kagawa a chance Ed. You won’t know what the bookstores will look like until this settles. Kagawa was a journalist, then a publisher, and he seems to sincerely like and back independent bookstores in general. I bet he spends lots of time in NYC shopping at independents. He is doing our community a great service, in my opinion, by saving one of our favorite haunts and allowing it to maintain its indy flavor. If he pulls it off, it’ll be a blessing. The workers sounded pretty happy about it when I talked to them. I’m usually skeptical, so don’t doubt my enthusiasm.

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