Cody’s to Move Downtown, Leave 4th Street

By Judith Scherr
Friday February 22, 2008

Cody’s is leaving Fourth Street for downtown Berkeley. 

“We love Cody’s,” Fourth Street developer Denny Abrams told the Planet through spokesperson Luma Cortez. “We hate to see it go.” 

While the move may hurt the upscale Fourth Street area’s careful mix of home furnishings and restaurants, with its toy, music and specialty shops, it will be a plus for downtown, said Michael Caplan, the city’s economic development director. 

Cody’s plans to remain open on Fourth Street during most the transition, and will re-open March 24 at the corner of Allston Way and Shattuck Avenue, the site of the former Eddie Bauer’s.  

“This isn’t a move that we fully anticipated,” says a Cody’s press release. “Our Fourth Street rent skyrocketed, making it impossible for us to stay after 10 lovely years in West Berkeley.”  

Melissa Mytinger, Cody’s store and marketing manager, told the Planet they started renegotiating a new 10-year lease. The rate asked was “not quite double what we were paying,” Mytinger said. Cody’s made counter offers, but the owner would not relent. 

Still, she said, “What started out as bad news ended really well.” 

While the move will be a loss for Fourth Street, “it will connect (Cody’s) to the arts district development efforts,” with book readings and cultural events in the evening, Caplan said. 

The new space will be smaller than its present location. “Cody’s will be more intimate than our Fourth Street store,” says the press release.  

Cody’s on Fourth Street is just under 10,000 square feet. The new space is about 7,000 square feet. The smaller space “will force us to fine-tune our inventory,” Mytinger said. 

They’ll go back to what Cody’s was best known for—history, politics, current affairs, literature. “We’re not going to do as many baby-toddler board books,” Mytinger said, adding that they will also cut out computer books. 

Cody’s was founded in Berkeley in 1956 by Fred and Pat Cody, then sold to Andy Ross in 1977, who opened the Fourth Street store in 1998 and added a San Francisco store in 2005. 

Ross closed the flagship store on Telegraph Avenue in mid 2006 and soon thereafter sold Cody’s to Yohan, a Japanese book distributor. In April 2007, the new owner closed the San Francisco store, 18 months after its opening. 

In December, Ross, who had stayed on as Cody’s president, stepped down and at the same time Hiroshi Kagawa left Yohan, where he had been CEO, and took Cody’s with him to the IBC Publishing Group, the current owner. 

Last year, Barnes and Noble closed its store in downtown Berkeley. Pegasus Books, Half Price Books, the Other Change of Hobbit and Comic Relief are located downtown. 

Cody’s is taking the unusual step of holding a community meeting—7 p.m., Feb. 27 at the Fourth Street store—to get input from the community. “We don’t pretend to know what downtown customers want,” Mytinger said.