Beloved Bookstore Ends Its Story

Richard and Sabine Yanul, owners of the Franz Bader Bookstore for 22 years, are closing up shop because the rent nearly doubled.
Richard and Sabine Yanul, owners of the Franz Bader Bookstore for 22 years, are closing up shop because the rent nearly doubled. (By Susan Biddle -- The Washington Post)
By Christina Barron
Washington Post staff Writer
Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Astop into Franz Bader Bookstore has never been about browsing discounted bestsellers while picking up a CD or DVD. There is no cappuccino machine and not a single overstuffed chair for lounging. Through its decades-long history, the small store, now at 19th and I streets NW, has been known for its wide and eclectic selection of art, architecture and photography books.

But after 22 years as the current owners of the 54-year-old store, Sabine and Richard Yanul are closing shop this week, a casualty of downtown rents, they say, and the growth of chain bookstores and Web-based retailers.

"The pie is just shrinking for everyone," Sabine Yanul says.

That may be true, many of Bader's customers say, but what has never been in short supply is the Yanuls' vast knowledge of -- and passion for -- books about the arts. And that is a big part of what they will miss.

"Typically, someone would come in to ask Sabine about a really obscure artist," says longtime customer Kris Norden of Foggy Bottom, and she would immediately list several books, some out of print or written in other languages. "She's better than the Internet. That kind of expertise goes back for decades."

For patrons such as Norden, this isn't just another mom-and-pop business disappearing. It's the disappearance of a home -- for art lovers, academics, museum directors and, especially, local architects, who decided last week to honor the Yanuls with this year's Glenn Brown Award, which honors those who support architecture. The award is given by the American Institute of Architects and the Washington Architectural Foundation.

Mary Fitch, executive director of the institute's D.C. chapter, called the bookstore "an informal gathering place for architects to learn and exchange ideas."

"It's the whole idea that you walk into a store and they know who you are," she says. "There's always Amazon, I suppose, but there's nothing that will take the place."

Robert Gurney learned about the store from a fellow architect 15 years ago and has been a regular ever since.

"Literally that's become a part of my life," he says of visits to the shop, where the Yanuls have sponsored numerous book signings and promoted lectures on architecture.

"It's a resource I think the whole architectural community is going to lose," Gurney says.

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