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Kate's Mystery Books to close

Posted by guest  July 16, 2009 12:45 PM

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After more than 25 years in business, Kate’s Mystery Books in Cambridge will close on Aug. 1.
Kate Mattes, owner of the bookstore, put her 3,400-square-foot Victorian on the market in 2007 and says that she has finally sold it to a real estate trust that plans on a mixed use for the building. Besides the store, the building houses Kate’s apartment as well as a rental unit.
“This is, of course, very sad about the store,’’ she said in a telephone interview. “But it was just the right time to do it. The near future for the real estate market looks bad. And it’s kind of bleak when you look at the book business.’’
Since opening the bookstore in August 1983, Kate’s Mystery Books has become a local gathering spot for aficionados of such writers as Robert B. Parker and Stephen King, who have become customers and friends. The store, which specializes in mysteries by American writers but recently has built up foreign offerings, has hosted numerous readings and book signings.
Mattes said that the thing that prompted the move was the death of her brother, a book agent, about five years ago. “He was a really big part of the store. I could just pick up the phone and call him’’ for advice. After he died, he left a big trove of books, and Mattes was the only one in her family who had any idea what to do with them.
“I started thinking about things, and decided that I couldn’t do this to my sister and her kids,’’ she said. So she started thinking about getting things in order. One of the first things she decided to do was to try to sell the building. That way she could potentially reopen the store in a new location and get a place to live separate from the store, hopefully making it easier to dispose of her property when the time came.
Mattes, 62, said she will stay in the house till the end of August but hopes to find other housing in Cambridge. She also has not closed the door on re-entering the book business and will put some things in storage while she decides what to do next.
"Just moving is enough for now. Before I got into the book business I was a social worker and it took a couple of years to decide I wanted to open a book store.''
In the meantime she says that she intends to try to hold the community of mystery lovers together even after her store closes.
“I hope you can get in in the next few weeks to say good-bye although I won't actually disappear,’’ she said in an e-mail to customers. “We will be having author events at different venues and of course we will have the annual holiday party so there will be opportunities for the mystery community to get together. You will get notices of them from me.’’
As she prepares to wind down the business Mattes plans to mark down everything in the store 25 percent, and on Aug. 1 there will be a packing party from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. and annual yard sale, with books going for $1 or less.

Posted by Paul S. Makishima, Globe staff

Photo of Kate Mattes by David L. Ryan/Globe Staff file photo

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13 comments so far...
  1. Maybe Kate could raffle off the bookshelves installed by Robert B. Parker.

    Posted by Fred July 16, 09 02:03 PM
  1. Bought my first Tim Dorsey there. You'll be missed.

    Posted by Harrybosch July 16, 09 02:37 PM
  1. Wow, great loss to the mystery writing and mystery loving community in Boston. I love the way she knows exactly where everything is in that cluttered little corner, and can squeeze people in for book events.

    Posted by MauraB July 16, 09 02:56 PM
  1. What a shame. I still own many books that were signed by my favorite authors at Kate's store. It was a unique place that had a great atmosphere. Good luck, Kate!

    Posted by TrueFaith July 16, 09 03:28 PM
  1. I hate to see this day.

    Posted by Toni L.P. Kelner July 16, 09 04:00 PM
  1. She had the best holiday parties.

    Posted by Mychael July 16, 09 04:29 PM
  1. kate - I hope you reopen in another location. There are some great commercial spaces available near Inman Sqaure. If you decide to reopen and put out a call to your mailing list, I bet you'll get volunteers to help you unpack!

    Posted by S July 16, 09 05:23 PM
  1. I hope they keep the great decorations on the building! Best of luck

    Posted by Amelia Stiles July 16, 09 05:31 PM
  1. I have an Amazon Kindle 2. It holds up to 1500 titles... and more and more books are available in digital format. Good bye bookstores, I hate to see you go.

    I have about 20 books on my Kindle right now, and I could never carry around 20 books.

    Best wishes to you Kate. Be careful about re-entering the book business

    Posted by Cathy Kowalski July 16, 09 07:23 PM
  1. Oh well. Ebooks!

    Posted by Jane X Jones July 16, 09 10:10 PM
  1. You always knew you could get advice and of course a signed copy of any mystery author's book from Kate's. The store will be missed.

    Posted by Jeff Cutler July 17, 09 08:27 AM
  1. Kate helped a lot of struggling writers get their careers off the ground. Thank you for the listening ear. Always a friend, Rick

    Posted by Richard Marinick July 18, 09 08:55 AM
  1. Kate. Though this is not a surprise, I am very sad about the closing of the store. I will also miss you a lot and want to keep up with your whereabouts. Thanks for all the good years, the suggestions, the talks, and do take care of yourself. Bette

    Posted by Bette Spear July 27, 09 09:13 PM
About off the shelf News about books, authors, and publishers from The Boston Globe.
Nicole Lamy is editor of the Globe's Books section.
Jan Gardner writes the "Shelf Life" column for the Globe's Books section.

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