A Second Helping of Book Soup

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Book Soup, a general-interest bookstore in West Hollywood, California, will soon open a second store in Orange County. Book Soup has earned a staunch following and strong reputation in its 27 years on the Sunset Strip, for its strengths in art, cinema, and music books, and literary fiction.

The second Book Soup will be located in South Coast Plaza, the locally legendary retail mall that's a shopping Mecca for upscale consumers.

"I think it has probably a higher concentration of international specialty boutiques than anyplace I've seen anywhere," Book Soup owner Glenn Goldman said recently of South Coast Plaza. "I think it has a higher concentration than Beverly Hills."

It was South Coast Plaza's management who invited Book Soup to open a store in the complex, in a 4,400-square-foot space vacated by a Rizzoli outlet, said Goldman: "They wanted another [book]store to go in there. And I think I'm on the short list of possibilities for that format." (The West Hollywood Book Soup, with addendum room and adjacent newsstand, occupies about 4,600 square feet.)

Goldman agreed that the second Book Soup (tentatively scheduled for a soft opening the third week of August, with a grand opening on September 15) will be offering its wares to a different sort of patron in Orange County. "Yes, it's quite a different demographic," he said. "The challenge is to cater to an essentially different demographic without losing the focus -- the sort of identity -- of the store."

The original Book Soup, although a general store, has "by virtue of its location" (on the border between Hollywood and Beverly Hills) focused over time primarily on the arts, Goldman said. The store has a particularly strong orientation towards movies and music. "And Orange County, of course, doesn't have that particular orientation, though it does have a proximity to the Orange County Performing Arts Center," Goldman noted.

At the Book Soup in South Coast Plaza, Goldman said, "We'll continue to focus on the arts, but it'll have a different set of strengths. We'll be trying to cater to professionals with architecture, and, to some degree, the performing arts." The socio-economic profile of the Plaza's shoppers suggests other sorts of books to stock: "It's primarily families. It has a large dose of tourism, particularly from the Far East. Fairly affluent people."

Asked what's been the reaction of bookselling colleagues to the unexpected though exciting news of a Book Soup in Orange County, Goldman said: "I think amazement, more than anything. It's very encouraging."

"This is incredible news," concurred independent publishers' representative Dory Dutton. "Having this happen -- I know it's going to be successful ... White Rabbit, a famous children's bookstore in La Jolla, also opened in South Coast Plaza a couple of years ago. But having Book Soup down there is going to be a kick -- really a great experience for Orange County, quite frankly. So that's been big news."

But Glenn Goldman isn't taking for granted Orange County patrons' instant awareness of the new Book Soup. "I think we're going to have to really advertise, and do a lot of community events, and be very active there," he said, "in order to earn a place in their cognition."

Book Soup's publicity marketing director, Jennifer Ramos, was putting together "a solid week of activities" for the official opening, Goldman added.

In general, Goldman thought, the South Coast Plaza Book Soup would probably host signings for a slightly different group of authors than the Book Soup on the Sunset Strip.

"We frequently offer authors [in West Hollywood] that would probably do much better in that [Orange County] environment," Goldman said. "For example, we're just putting together something for Tom Clancy up here [on Sunset]. And that [new] store's not ready, but I think if it had been ready -- that is someone who would have had a huge, huge following there, more so than here, I think."

Events scheduled for the first September week of the new Book Soup include visits by bestselling author Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones, Little, Brown), novelist Glen David Gold (Carter Beats the Devil, Hyperion), Orange County thriller writer and L.A. Times Book Prize winner T. Jefferson Parker (Black Water, Hyperion), architecture photographer Julius Shulman (Kesling Modern Structures: Popularizing Modern Living in Southern California 1934-1962, Princeton Architectural Press), and a group of "emerging voices" from UC Irvine's noted student writing program. --Tom Nolan