Linden Tree Books acquired new owners this month after a yearlong search for a community-based buyer interested in continuing the independent children’s bookseller’s legacy.
Founded by Linda and Dennis Ronberg in downtown Los Altos in 1981, Linden Tree was taken up by local parents Jill Curcio and Dianne Edmonds in 2010 when the Ronbergs retired. Nearly a decade later, Edmonds and Curcio wanted to hand over the reins, so they started a local search for a new caretaker.
It took a year to find the right match, but Mountain View resident Florina Grosskurth teamed up with Palo Alto resident Chris Saccheri to become the bookstore’s new owners this month. They said the family-friendly signatures of the store – comfy seats, a toddler-sized bathroom, author events, even the ever-practical gift-wrapping station – are here to stay.
Grosskurth and Saccheri, both parents of young, book-loving children, said their question now is how the bookstore can grow to do even more in the community. They recently sat down for a Q&A with the Town Crier at the bookstore on a quiet Tuesday morning, while Grosskurth’s kids read in a corner. Full disclosure: Grosskurth has written for the Town Crier as a columnist and I’ve known her a long time.
The new booksellers first met at LinkedIn, where Saccheri directed web development and Grosskurth ran engineering programs related to technical brand and culture. Since leaving LinkedIn, Saccheri said he has been a full-time dad to his children Sarah, 11, Paul, 9, and Jenny, 4. Grosskurth, who went on to run people operations at Wealthfront and start her own consulting business, has two children, Logan, 5, and Sawyer, 3.
The following interview was edited for clarity and concision.
Q: You both come from a background in technology. Why turn to books?
Saccheri: I worked a lot in the school library at Sarah and Paul’s elementary school, and my wife and I ran the book fair for the last few years there. We’ve been coming to Linden Tree for years, even back when it was at the old location at the corner of Third and State. We’re on the mailing list, which is when I first heard they were thinking about selling.
I hoped that someone would step up and do it. This past spring there was another email with more urgency behind it – “If we don’t find a buyer, we’re going to close the doors next year.” I wondered if Flo would be into doing this. I forwarded the email and just said, “Want to run a bookstore?” Within five minutes, I got a response from Flo like, “‘Yeah! We can do that!’ and then a paragraph of ideas.”
Grosskurth: I immediately wrote back and said, “You’re not joking, right?” I really hoped he was for real. I too had seen it was for sale, but I couldn’t imagine doing it by myself. You need someone to feed off of and bounce ideas off. As I was looking for a new project, I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but I wanted something where I could be around my kids more, while also being intellectually stimulated. I didn’t know whether that meant starting my own thing or joining a company where my kids could be a part of it somehow.
I also wanted to use all the various things that I learned to do over the years, whether it was in operations or social media or human relations. The bookstore fit the criteria all in one shot – I get to wear a bunch of hats, and my kids get to be around.
Q: What’s a book from childhood that has stayed with you – something we might find on the shelves at Linden Tree?
Grosskurth: For me, Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” was that book – I grew up in a communist country, so “Tom Sawyer” represented everything I wasn’t and didn’t have and couldn’t be. He was rebellious and smart and friends with the wrong people and made his own way, essentially. As an 8-year-old girl in a communist country, that was the opposite of everything I saw around me.
Saccheri: It would probably be a Richard Scarry book, “What Do People Do All Day?” I used to carry it around as a child. The awesome balance of fiction and nonfiction was really appealing to me, and I loved the fact that because it was so detailed, I could go back to it, and every time I opened it up there was something in the corner. Here’s a story that we’re building the rabbit family’s house, with detailed illustrations – here are the pipes where the water comes into the house and where the sewer lines come in. It was fascinating as a kid to see under the hood. My kids loved it, too. You could pick it up 50 times and find something new.
Q: Give us a peek into the future – what might be coming at Linden Tree?
Saccheri: Linden Tree already does a fantastic job with author events and in-store fundraisers. One of the things we want to make more of are classes or workshops to get people telling their own stories, whether it’s workshops or poetry slams. Being a reader is fantastic; we want to go to the next step, where you’re writing things for other people to read. My older daughter is interested in working at the bookstore; she wants to do a class where we can teach people to make comics.
Grosskurth: Our inspiration is 826 Valencia (in San Francisco), a bookstore that’s giving back to the community while keeping it fun and tongue-in-cheek. We want it to be a place people keep coming back to, because you never know what new fun thing is in store. We’ll have a big community open house this fall, we want to expand the teen board and we want to hear everyone’s suggestions and passion projects. Also, you can get involved immediately – Linden Tree is hiring booksellers.
Linden Tree Books is located at 265 State St. For more information, visit lindentreebooks.com.