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Lynn Kuehl’s Berkshire Books store on Clayton Road has always been essentially a one-man operation. And if not for the assemblage of some two dozen volunteers who helped keep the store open in late November and most of December, it would have been a literal no-man’s land.
Kuehl, who has owned the small shop for 15 years, had an aneurysm in his right knee in early November, and lost the leg to amputation. He’s back now, and soon expects to be fitted with a prosthetic leg.
He’s in the shop “almost every day” now, he said. “The shop’s better organized now than it’s been for quite some time.”
For that, Kuehl credits the people who kept the store open for him.
“I couldn’t have done all this by myself,” he said. “At some point I’ll have to show my gratitude in some tangible way.”
When he found out about Kuehl’s medical issues, Joel Harris — a regular at Berkshire Books and a onetime bookshop owner himself — talked with Kuehl about how to keep the store open.
Harris, an Antioch-based attorney, then started contacting his own former employees, other people passionate about books, and friends and family members. Some had worked in bookstores before, including for Harris; others had never worked in a store at all. Some filled one shift, some several.
The result was that instead of Berkshire being closed for the six weeks before Christmas, the store was closed only for two weeks in November.
Harris said he isn’t directly involved with Berkshire Books at the moment; he got sick himself in December and was down for seven weeks, he said. But he and his various volunteers enjoyed the experience; some, he said, are still helping out.
“I still am getting great feedback about the whole project,” Harris said this month. “I was in the store recently and very pleased to see that everything we implemented is being carried forward by Lynn, who was looking very hale.”
Kuehl said he also got help from the folks at Swan’s Fine Books in Walnut Creek, who during a current store move gave him some shelving and an LED-lighted “Books” sign gracing the front window.
He acknowledges the publicity his store received when the volunteers helped keep it open resulted in a slight business bump, including from customers who had not heard of the store before that.
Concord has become a virtual bookstore “Mecca” in central Contra Costa, Kuehl said, with Berkshire recently rejoined by two old names — Barnes and Noble, which closed in Pleasant Hill in 2014 and reopened in The Veranda shopping center in 2019, and Half Price Books, which closed in downtown Concord early 2019 but reopened at the Willows shopping center in November.
Kuehl said he wants to continue to be part of the local books scene as long as he can. That new leg, complete with a computer chip-equipped “smart knee,” should help. But with that will come a round of intense therapy, he said.
He knows that, at 65, he can’t go indefinitely. But he’ll try.
“I don’t know what I would do with myself if I wasn’t doing this,” Kuehl said. “This is what I do.”