Books Inc. History

Books Inc. is a locally owned and operated independent bookseller with 11 locations in California. Books Inc.’s origin dates back to the Gold Rush Days of 1851 when Anton Roman struck it rich in Shasta City, California and set himself up in business selling books. That small bookstore was moved, bought, sold, burned, rebuilt, renamed and became Books Inc., as we know it today, in 1946.

Lew Lengfeld, owner since 1946, passed away in 1996 and left Books Inc. to a few trusted employees. The good news was, he left them the business; the bad news was he left them the business just as the national chain stores were discovering and colonizing the West Coast. The impact of this change in climate within the book trade was the closure of ten of the twelve Books Inc. stores and filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy in an effort to restructure and save the company.

By this time only Michael Grant and Michael Tucker remained as owners. They were determined not only to survive, but to thrive. The company emerged from Chapter 11 in August of 1997 with 4 stores and a 5th was added in 1998. All integral systems had been revamped and computerized, from buying to accounting. Publishers began to take notice as this Phoenix rose from the ashes.

Tragically, Mike Grant died suddenly in August of 2000, just as the company was poised for further expansion. Michael Tucker assumed the role of President and carried out the plan.

The external focus of Books Inc. is now and always has been customer service. The internal objective is to train the next generation of booksellers.

Today, with 11 stores and around 200 employees, Books Inc. serves as a shining example that independent bookselling can survive and prosper, even if we must dance among the elephants.


 Books Inc. Time Line - A Genealogy

2015 - Books Inc. Announces Santa Clara Location to Open in 2016

2015 -  Berkeley Store moves to Shattuck & Vine

2015 – Compass Terminal 3 Lease Rewarded to Books Inc.

2011 – Compass Books opens in New Terminal 2 at SFO

2009 – Berkeley Store Opens

2008 – Store in Stanford Shopping Center moves to Town & Country Village, Palo Alto

2006 – Opera Plaza Store Opens

2004 – Alameda Store Opens

2001 – Disney and Mountain View Stores Open

2000 – Burlingame Store Opens

2000 – Michael Grant dies suddenly.

1998 – Chestnut Street Store opens in the Marina

August 1997 - emerged from Chapter 11, under ownership of Michael Grant, Michael Tucker (4 stores)

1995 – Market Street Store Opens, Compass Books/Bzinc open in Terminal 3 at SFO

1995 – Lew Lengfeld dies, leaves company  to employees, Michael Grant and Michael Tucker; National Chains colonize the West Coast. Chapter 11 bankruptcy  filed in effort to restructure, and save company.

13 of 15 stores closed. All Southern California stores closed

1976 – Laurel Village Store Opens on California Street 1974

               – 26 stores in the West

1963 – Books Inc. inducted into the “100 Year Club” at the California State Fair

honoring business that had achieved 100 years of operation

1957 – Opens store in  Palo Alto at  Stanford Shopping Center

1955 – Begins expansion to Seattle, Southern California, New Mexico, Dallas, & Denver (Hartman’s, Hunter’s etc…)

1950 – Books Inc begins 1st commercial TV book review program. Lew Lengfeld host

1950 – Ted Lilienthal Leaves the business

1948 – Leon Gelber dies, Books Inc. merges with Gelber-Lilienthal.

1946 – Barbara Thompson and Lew Lengfeld establish Books Inc. in the Fairmont Hotel

1925 – Harry Robertson sold store and stock to Leon Gelber and partner Ted Lilienthal (Gelber-Lilienthal, Inc., 336 Sutter St.) who establish Lantern Press

1924 – Alex Robertson Dies

1906 – San Francisco Earthquake & Fire destroy original Montgomery St. store

1891 – Robertson bought out his remaining partners

1882 – Pearson and Robertson’s (bought Roman’s stock)

1880 – Anton Roman republishes Overland Monthly but sells his shop to George Billings

1879 – Anton Roman Booksellers combines with Robertson’s and a variety of partners

1872 – Roman first publishes Mark Twain’s Roughing It

1870 – Roman sells Overland Monthly

1867 – Anton Roman establishes Overland Monthly (edited by Bret Harte)

               Publishes Harte’s “Luck of the Roaring Camp”

1863 – Anton Roman begins publishing

1860s – Hires Alex Robertson as assistant

1859 – Grand opening of Anton Romans’ on Montgomery Street

1857 – Anton Roman establishes San Francisco Store

1851 - Bavarian publisher and book dealer, Anton Roman, struck gold in Shasta City, CA December 1851 – Anton Roman founds Shasta City bookshop