OAKLAND — Say it isn't so!
This was the cry heard around town when word spread Tuesday that DeLauer's Super Newsstand would close its doors for good.
Wednesday, the century-old institution at 1301 Broadway was saved by the bell, or rather by a coalition of city officials and private individuals.
The neon sign that hangs outside the store reminds all that DeLauer's has been "Open 24 hours a day, every day," "Since 1907."
"An overwhelming outpouring of customer support, curiosity and demand, has made it necessary to postpone indefinitely," said David Glover, executive director for Oakland Citizens Committee on Urban Renewal.
Glover, who spearheaded attempts to save the 101-year-old store, said city officials and private individuals will meet today to discuss new business models that can sustain the beloved downtown Oakland institution, famous for a clientele as diverse and unusual as its inventory.
The manager, Fasil Lamme, announced the news to customers about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday.
"I'm really very happy for Oakland and I want to say thank you," said Lamme, beaming with relief at the 11th hour reprieve as patrons cheered the good news.
"I am so relieved," said customer Walt Jackson, an Oakland native who first set foot in the store in 1964, two years before it opened on Broadway.
In 1966, the Oakland Tribune called the Broadway shop the "finest store of its kind west of Chicago."
DeLauer's began as an outside newsstand, then opened in the Tribune Press building on 12th Street. In 1946, the store moved to 412 12th St.
This place is a living library, Jackson said, comparing it to chain bookstores that lack the history DeLauer's has.
"You can smell the history. You don't want to leave."
Being able to walk into a store like DeLauer's and pick up a newspaper, book or magazine is being taken for granted and will be sorely missed, shopper Hal Erickson said.
It was a close call and the peril may not be over yet.
Keira Williams, retail specialist for business development services for the city of Oakland, said it may not be feasible to save the store at the current location or for someone to take on the steep debt. But her department will help the owners find resources and partners to keep the business going.
"Anything is on the table right now," she said.
The news that DeLauer's would not close took a while to reach shoppers who entered the store after the announcement. For one thing, a sign announcing the closure hung in the window along with one announcing the store would stay open.
"So are you closing or not closing?" asked one woman who said she is a regular shopper, adding that DeLauer's is a historic site in Oakland.
"It can't close down," she continued, reflecting the sentiments of most of the shoppers — an assortment of long-time regulars and occasional browsers out to pay respects to the store they expected to be shuttered come today.
Poor sales, bad economic times and a changing industry marked by discount online book sales are blamed for nearly forcing the newsstand to close.
Owner Charles DeLauer, 91, also suffers from a form of lymphoma, making it difficult for him to keep the flagship newsstand from sinking or even pay the $6,500 monthly rent.
Last year the company lost $200,000, according to the store's accountant, Joseph Churchward.
Herman Coleman, who has shopped at DeLauer's since 1976, said more than competition from the Internet, thugs and homeless people who stand outside the store have hurt business, especially in the past 10 years.
"It's getting gross," he said.
The store will work with the city and others to deal with those issues beginning with a meeting today. For the moment, Lamme, his fellow clerks and patrons were just glad the store would live to see another day.
"Anything can be saved," said Susan Walker, holding a stack of magazines. "With a little creativity everything is possible. You have to think outside the box."
Angela Woodall can be reached at email@example.com or at 510-208-6413.