Cody's Books Closes After 52 Years in Berkeley

By Michael Howerton
Friday June 20, 2008 - 06:05:00 PM
A Cody's manager informs people on Friday afternoon that the book store has gone out of business.
By Michael Howerton
A Cody's manager informs people on Friday afternoon that the book store has gone out of business.

Cody’s Books, founded on Euclid Avenue in Berkeley in 1956, moved to Telegraph Avenue, expanded to Fourth Street in 1998 and San Francisco in 2005, closed on Telegraph in 2006, closed in San Francisco the following year, moved to Shattuck Avenue in March, and then, on June 19, 2008, went out of business. 

Shoppers and passersby at the 2201 Shattuck store Friday found a locked store and a sign taped on the glass doors reading: “Cody’s Books is Closed-Thank You.” Above the windows a recently hung temporary banner proclaimed: “Now Open-Cody’s Books.” 

An employee greeted a few people who knocked on the locked doors Friday afternoon, informing them that Cody’s was indeed closed for good. 

Melissa Mytinger, Cody’s last manager, said that staff was told of the store’s closing during an all-staff meeting Friday morning. She had no forewarning of the move, she said. 

“We were all shocked,” she said. “It was a great team.” 

She said an official statement was expected to be issued from Japan, but as of Friday late afternoon, it was not available. 

Cody’s Books, founded by Fred and Pat Cody 52 years ago, was for many years Berkeley’s most famous and most beloved book store in a town that loves books. The Codys were renowned for treating street people and protesters with kindness and generosity, especially during the time of the Free Speech Movement. 


The business was sold to Andy Ross in 1977. He was responsible for the Fourth Street and San Francisco expansions and presided over closing the Telegraph store, after a business downturn that many observers thought was caused by problems with the expansion financing.  


Soon after closing the Telegraph store in mid-2006, Ross sold Cody’s to Yohan, a Japanese book distributor whose owner-CEO was Hiroshi Kagawa. Yohan kept only the Fourth Street shop open. In December, Ross, who had stayed on as Cody’s president under the new owner, stepped down, and at the same time Kagawa left Yohan and took Cody’s with him to the IBC Publishing Group, the current owner. 


From Japan, Kagawa issued this statement on Friday: "[It] is a heartbreaking moment; in the spring of 2005 when I learned about the financial crisis facing Cody's, I was excited to save the store from bankruptcy. Unfortunately, my current business is not strong enough or rich enough to support Cody's. Of course, the store has been suffering from low sales and the deficit exceeds our ability to service it." 


"When I met Cody's 25 years ago, I was a freelance journalist, enraptured by its books and atmosphere. It means so much to me and I apologize to the people who have supported Cody's for not being able to keep this landmark independent bookstore open. Cody's is my treasure and more than that, Cody's is a real friend of Berkeley community and will be missed."