City Paper is not for tourists
Politics & Sold: Yes, Borders may be on its way to the brand graveyard. But if the health of the publishing industry can be measured by the fate of bookstores, the news isn’t all bad; a buyer was Politics and Prose Finally Has a Buyer
The next owners of Politics and Prose, the Chevy Chase bookstore and local literary institution, will be former Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham and his wife Lissa Muscatine, most recently the head speechwriter at the U.S. Department of State and a confidante of Bill and Hillary Clinton. The Washington Post reports that following a lengthy search, the bookstore’s current owners will complete the sale in the next 45 days.
Owners Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade decided to sell the store last year after Cohen, suffering from cancer of the bile ducts, became very ill. She died in October. Dozens of parties expressed interest, with one group including literary agent Raphael Sagalyn, former New Republic editor Franklin Foer, and Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, and another led by American University law professor Nicholas Kittrie.
Politics and Prose, known for its impressive slate of author events, has remained profitable amid tough times for brick-and-mortar booksellers. The Post article doesn’t say how much Graham and Muscatine are paying for the store. In his Washington City Paper cover story on the sale last fall, Tom Anderson offered an educated guess:
We did some back-of-the-envelope calculations for Politics and Prose. Our results represented an educated guess, at best: P&P is a closely held business and does not disclose all its financial information. Meade says Politics and Prose did more than $7 million in total sales for the past fiscal year, which ended in June. It’s conceivable that booksellers who are paragons of efficiency could pinch pennies enough to produce a gross profit margin of 15 percent, or $1.1 million per year if you round up. That’s a harder margin to maintain, though, when you’re paying salaries for the 55 experienced employees at Politics and Prose. Many bookstores sell for 15 percent of annual sales plus the value of their inventory as a rule of thumb, according to Jones. He estimates the inventory of a bookstore Politics and Prose’s size would range from $1.5 million to $1.8 million (large, specialized bookstores like P&P tend to keep more inventory around longer than the average indie bookseller). Under these projections, the store’s tangible assets may be worth nearly $3 million. No wonder Cohen and Meade received so many offers, probably for even less than the on-paper value of the business. People know a bargain when they see one.
But Politics and Prose also has “goodwill”—what “accounting dorks call the price buyers pay for a business over and above the value of its tangible assets,” Anderson wrote. With its stature as an intellectual hub, its impressive readings, and reputation for knowledgeable booksellers, Politics and Prose is plenty rich in goodwill.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery
“>announced today for Politics & Prose, the upper Northwest institution with its own C-SPAN camera. Former Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham and longtime Clinton (both Bill and Hillary) adviser Lissa Muscatine will purchase the store. They beat out, among others, a group headed by former New Republic editor Franklin Foer and Atlantic writer Jeffrey Goldberg. +2
Sugar Lobby: Mysterious enough that Georgetown Cupcake can draw endless lines of fans to its M Street corner, no matter the weather. Now the calorie bombs are being used to influence public policy. Sunday’s New York Times wrote up AT&T’s lobbying blitz last year on Federal Communications Commission regulations, capped by the delivery of 1,500 cupcakes to the FCC’s offices at The Portals in Southwest. (The company later also sent some cupcakes to the non-profit that first disclosed the tactic.) The bad news: Really, more publicity for cupcakes? The good news: Maybe this means Darrell Issa will finally investigate the true scourge of D.C.—trendy sugary snacks! -1
Gas Guzzling: Taxi rates just went up $1—and no, this time, you can’t blame the meters. With gas prices soaring, Mayor Vince Gray issued an executive order allowing a $1 fuel surcharge on trips within the District. It’s set to expire July 25, but since a gallon of gas may well cost five bucks by then, it’s likely to be extended. Our advice: Learn the bus routes. -1
Ostrich Jam: Traffic on the Beltway? Not surprising. Traffic on the Beltway due to an escaped flightless fowl? That’s a different story. An ostrich got loose from a truck taking it to a petting zoo and ran around on I-495 near the Connecticut Avenue exit on the outer loop, until handlers coaxed it back in. (Which, to be honest, is usually what we feel like doing when driving on the Beltway.) +1
Friday’s Needle rating: 65 Today’s score: +1 Today’s Needle rating: 66