Morgan Sykes organizes magazines at Main Street News in July. (Daniel Archuleta daniela@smdp.com)

Morgan Sykes organizes magazines at Main Street News in July. (Daniel Archuleta daniela@smdp.com)

MAIN STREET — For about 23 years the magazine stand Main Street News provided the Ocean Park neighborhood with a unique space to meet-up, hang out and purchase rare and international publications.

In the last four years, store manager Sabi Yaghoubi and her husband Hassan added a special touch with their improvements to the business’ layout and offerings.

After such a history within the Main Street community, Main Street News closed for good this week due to failed negotiations to lower the rent.

“I miss everybody, I miss our community,” Sabi Yaghoubi said. She added that loyal customers still come to the storefront upset at losing their go-to morning destination.

The store’s fate reflects a larger declining national trend and a shifting landscape on Main Street.

The number of news dealers and newsstands in the country has decreased through the first decade of the 21st century with only 1,635 newsstands in the United States in 2005 and California being one of the four states with more than 100 left, according to a 2013 report from HighBeam Business.

In terms of profit, a State of the Media 2013 report stated that the magazine industry as a whole suffered an 8.2 percent decline in single-issue sales last year with news magazines hit the hardest — a 16 percent decline on average.

Profits dwindled at Main Street News due in large part to competition from online publications, said Hassan Yaghoubi, who also runs an electrical business.

A 2012 report by the Alliance for Audited Media stated that 90 percent of surveyed media companies and publishers distributed their content via mobile devices.

Though profits remained dismal, Sabi Yaghoubi said her rent stayed at about $5,000 a month, an amount her husband said was set at a time when the newspaper and magazine business was booming. As the renewal deadline for their lease approached, the Yaghoubis asked to lower the rent to about $3,200 for a five year lease but their landlord offered a rate of about $4,500, Sabi Yaghoubi said.

The current lease listing on PAR Commercial Brokerage’s website is for $3,809 per month with an additional $680 monthly fee for property tax, insurance and maintenance for three to five years.

American Commercial Equities Management, the company that owns the 2726 Main St. property — former home of Main Street News — was unavailable for comment.

When the Yaghoubis took over management, the business was rundown and the building was in shambles with a cracked ceiling, a register table with peeling paint and other forms of disarray. Sabi, who previously worked as a university librarian, loved her community newsstand enough that she felt she needed to do her part to keep it going.

The couple made repairs as best they could, updated their stock selection and even added a lottery machine into the mix.

“We tried hard to incorporate something that generates more income and matches the whole environment,” Hassan Yaghoubi said.

Britt Allcroft, a longtime loyal customer who moved to Santa Monica in 1998 from England after falling in love with Main Street, is grateful for Sabi Yaghoubi’s efforts.

Allcroft praised Sabi Yaghoubi’s friendly greetings and conversations as well as the extra work she put in to order magazines for customers who could not find a specific selection. Sabi Yaghoubi even considered those who walked their pets to the store by offering cookies to visiting dogs.

She added that despite the boom of digital publishing, there was still value in Main Street News’ print offerings.

“E-book businesses found they will definitely do well, but most folks, including families and schools, still want print books in their life,” Allcroft said.

Gary Gordon, executive director of the Main Street Business Improvement Association, recognizes the store’s significance to the shopping district as both a community space and a haven for lovers of print media, but says these factors alone cannot protect it from effects of the marketplace, landlord demands, or even the trends in Main Street’s storefront variety.

Gordon explained that the local shopping district has seen more turnover in the last five years than in the years preceding, with the turnovers mostly short lived. He added that some stores have even opened and closed within a year.

Just two doors down from Main Street News, the long-standing Omelette Parlor is also listed on PAR Commercial’s lease listings with a representative saying in a voicemail that it too will be going out.

However, store owner Bob Hausenbauer, said that he plans to renew his lease with no future prospects of closing as of yet. He added that “anything heard to the contrary is a fallacy.”

Sabi Yaghoubi said that with landlords refusing to negotiate lower rates and opting for big name brands rather than mom-and-pop stores, Main Street’s character is threatened.

“The landlords, the owners of the buildings, they don’t care about the people, they don’t care about the neighborhood,” Sabi Yaghoubi said.

“Day by day they want to turn Main Street into the Third Street Promenade.”

Despite the shifting layout and the loss of a local newsstand, Gordon still believes that the street has a sufficient mix of offerings.

“Main Street is still a really unique shopping area in Santa Monica, and really on the Westside,” Gordon said. “It’s the American main street, but it’s only a few blocks away from the beach.”

Allcroft, on the other hand, said that there needs to be greater effort to balance stores that cater to tourists and those that support locals.

“I feel really strongly that if Main Street is going to survive and flourish, it’s got to have an equivalent of these mom-and-pop stores,” Allcroft said.

 

 

editor@smdp.com

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