Jeffrey Segal has done something few bookstore owners have managed to do in recent years: expand.
Segal owns the Mystic Journey Bookstore in Venice. And since he opened the store five years ago, he said that he’s grown sales each year, topping the $1 million mark last year. So, last summer, he moved into a larger building just up Abbot Kinney Boulevard.
And Segal is not done. He’s now scouting out Pasadena for what would be his second location.
So what’s his secret? How has he managed to avoid the fate of other venerable independent bookstores in Los Angeles County that have closed in recent years, including Cliff’s Books in Pasadena, Dutton’s Books in Brentwood and Valley Village, and Williams Books in San Pedro?
Segal said the answer is two-fold: He’s focused on a niche audience with a committed fan base, and he sells a lot more than books. Besides spiritual texts and writings, Mystic Journey sells crystals, tarot cards, meditation and yoga paraphernalia, and music. Along with book signings, the store features appearances by psychics and astrologers.
“We’re the one-stop shop for those seeking spiritual information and products,” Segal said.
Another metaphysical shop, Bodhi Tree in West Hollywood, closed in late 2011 and went online.
“They were a more traditional bookstore, whereas for us, books are only about 50 percent of sales,” he said.
Segal, a former insurance defense attorney, launched his bookstore in fall 2008 as the financial crash hit. He was then 50 and had just come through a years-long battle against testicular cancer that had spread to his lymphatic system. He decided against chemotherapy and chose alternative therapies, including acupuncture and energy healing. After he became cancer free, he took out a $100,000 home equity loan to open the store and now has a loyal following.
“Nearly every day, people come up to me and tell me how grateful they are that a store like this exists, given what’s going on with bookstores today,” Segal said.
– Howard Fine