Encinitas Crown Books. No fancy shelves, displays, coffee, or best sellers.
  • Encinitas Crown Books. No fancy shelves, displays, coffee, or best sellers.
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A long gone, but once familiar nationwide business has reappeared in Encinitas.

Back in the 1980s, a lanky Robert Haft went on TV with the his three-piece suit and heavy New Jersey accent, to tell America, “Books cost too much. That's why I opened Crown Books. Now you'll never pay full price again!"

Closing in on the heels of Barnes and Noble, and Borders, by 1994, Crown Books became the third largest bookstore chain in the U.S. Most Crown Books carried up to 80,000 titles, all at discounted prices.

The growing company soon imploded with an inter-family divorce and investor lawsuits. By 2001, through a series of bankruptcies and attempts to re-launch the chain, Crown Books was liquidated — gone from the American landscape.

Recently, Rancho Peñasquitos resident Andy Wiess acquired the rights to use the Crown Books name, from an East Coast bookstore chain that purchased the trademark from the bankruptcy courts for pennies on the dollar.

Crown Books

260 N. El Camino Real, Suite G, Encinitas

On June 22, Wiess opened his fourth Crown Books store. Located in Encinitas in the Vons/Camino Village Plaza shopping center in the 200 block of North El Camino Real, the store uses the old type font and logo.

As Barnes and Noble continues to struggle in a dying book market, the new Crown Books doesn’t offer fancy shelves, displays, coffee, or even carry most of the latest best sellers. Instead, the plain-Jane stores offer mostly used books, all in good shape. And selling for an average of five to ten dollars.

I found one of each of the last decade’s best selling self-help books by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, including 10 Stupid Things Men Do To Mess Up Their Lives. The chapter titles appeared to be relevant today. An autographed 1984 best seller by Dr. Robert Schuller, Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do, sat wedged in with other titles in the spirituality section.

The store also had racks of large coffee-table picture books on cars, travel, sports and entertainment personalities.

The store advertises they’ll buy and trade books. An employee said they have two wholesalers in L.A. and San Francisco that provide most of their used book inventory.

With now two other San Diego County locations, in Horton Plaza and Chula Vista, and a third in L.A.’s Woodland Hills, the stores have also revived the old Crown Books commercial tag line, “If you paid full price, you didn’t buy it at Crown Books!”

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chendri887 July 4, 2017 @ 4:26 p.m.

"I found one of each of the last decade’s best selling self-help books by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, including 10 Stupid Things Men Do To Mess Up Their Lives. The chapter titles appeared to be relevant today."

That's a joke, right? An unpleasant entity, who has taken on all the dysfunctional characteristics she attributed to her parents, and, during the 90s, inflicted them on anyone insane enough to listen (which, apparently, is enough people to make her very wealthy. Ugh. Insufferable, Schlessinger is. Just reading the bits and pieces in her Wikipedia bio makes me pissed off.


dwbat July 4, 2017 @ 5:22 p.m.

She calls herself "Dr. Laura" (which is technically correct as she did earn a Ph.D.) But her doctorate was in physiology (NOT psychology or sociology). Much of her commentary has been very mean-spirited, negative and inaccurate.


ConanTheRepublican July 5, 2017 @ 8:25 a.m.

Dr. Laura is anything BUT unpleasant, and has helped millions of people better their lives. She was chased off TV by death threats from people with your type of mentality. Gay much, btw? This is beside the point, however. This is a story about the opening of a new freaking BOOKSTORE; not about how Dr. Laura will usher in the Apocalypse!


dwbat July 5, 2017 @ 9 a.m.

RE: "millions of people" Please name just five of them, with full contact information, so it can be verified. Also, there is NO reason for your homophobic comment; it's inappropriate.


Ken Harrison July 6, 2017 @ 9:13 a.m.

I used to use that one for making my kids eat their vegetables. Until they asked me to name four of the starving kids in India.


AlexClarke July 5, 2017 @ 7:10 a.m.

Weak people rely on people like Dr. Laura to make life decisions for them. Many of the Dr. Laura types gravitate toward religion as a way to foist their beliefs and values on people.


Darren July 6, 2017 @ 8:58 a.m.

This kind of business model is not workable, for long. A bit more upscale folks from Encinitas want service and selection, and the coffeehouse and kids section, and more. The revived Crown Books has been around since the 1990's in San Diego, opening and closing stores. The owner refuses to sign anything but temporary month-to-month leases, and as quickly as one Crown Books opens, it then closes a year later. Borders was a great bookstore but failed in our new economy. Barnes & Noble keeps reinventing but still its future is uncertain, and they offer many bargain books, magazines, coffee, and their Nook (though the Kindle has majority market share). Study Powell Books HQ'd in Portland, for a success model of how to be an independent bookseller. Or check out Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, though they do not sell used books, they understand what pulls in people from all over the globe, into their bookstore. Locally, I have always thought Warwick's of La Jolla has demonstrated their staying power and adapting to changes, and do a very good job (again, only new books). Book-Off in Kearny Mesa, has an enormous selection of used (and some new) books, and they are always buying books too (and electronics, and other items they buy/sell, though I am not sure that extension on their part was good).


Ken Harrison July 6, 2017 @ 9:15 a.m.

I think you are correct. I kinda got that sense when I visited. Their lease is only through 1-1-18.


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