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San Jose's iconic bookstore Hicklebee's going up for sale

Silicon Valley logo Silicon Valley 8/5/2022 Sal Pizarro, Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif.

Aug. 5—For sale: One bookstore. Nice storefront on Lincoln Avenue. A cozy children's reading area. Bookshelves packed with adventure, laughter, romance, friendship, thrills — and millions of memories.

In the kind of emotional twist you'd find in a young adult series, owners Valerie Lewis and Monica Holmes have decided to sell Hicklebee's Bookstore, an institution in San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood since it opened in 1979.

"I could probably stick with Hicklebee's past 100 years old, but I believe in exiting with grace," Lewis said in an email this week. "And it's time. We have every intention of finding the right owners to carry on the Hicklebee's tradition."

Lewis was part of the original quartet of owners — with Jan Gottlieb, Georgia Osborne and Vicki Villarreal — who opened what they called "Hicklebee's: The Evolution of the Bookworm" 43 years ago. Holmes, Lewis' sister, joined as a partner later that year, and a decade later, the store moved to its current location.

Lewis and Holmes shared the news of their planned retirement with customers this week in an email newsletter, saying they are eager to spend more time with family and traveling.

"The key ingredients that will contribute to the success of a new owner are all in place: a loyal customer base; a dedicated, hard-working staff; the technology tools to remain current and relevant; and a beautiful environment that appeals to customers of all ages," the newsletter said, noting that the ideal new owner would be passionate about books and possess sound judgement, some creativity and a good sense of what it takes to operate a retail business. "We would be delighted to find a new owner who would enjoy steering San Jose's family center for literature and learning."

While it is primarily known — and proudly so — as a children's bookstore, Hicklebee's has long catered to readers of all ages and has hosted events featuring celebrities, literary and otherwise, including "Captain Underpants" creator Dav Pilkey, Chelsea Clinton, humorist Dave Barry, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and late U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta.

The most oft-told tale about Hicklebee's is probably when Lewis — who has become a nationally respected expert on children's books — asked Scholastic Books to bring a then-unknown author named J.K. Rowling to San Jose in 1998 to promote her first book, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." About 20 people were at that first appearance; when she returned a year later, the crowd was limited to the first 1,000.

So, yeah, it would help if the new owner had a little magic on their side, too.

Anyone interested in owning an institution can contact the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates at 904-277-2664 or by email at to find out more.

FAN FAVORITE RETURNS: It should be a fun weekend in downtown San Jose with the return of Crunchyroll Expo, the annual celebration of anime and Japanese pop culture at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. There will be writers, artists and cosplayers around, so don't be surprised if you run into a character or two. And the event is hybrid this year, too, so if you're not attending in person, you can catch some of the action at

ART IN AUGUST: It's going to be quite a month for art fans in the South Bay. The monthly South First Fridays art walk is back in downtown San Jose this week after taking July off, featuring new exhibitions at Anno Domini, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Art Ark Gallery and Works/San Jose. Not to mention, the return of the arty, DIY street market on South First Street. It's all starting at 5 p.m., and you can either head to for the full rundown or just show up in the SoFA district between San Carlos and Reed streets and explore.

The 47th annual Fine Art in the Park show returns to Los Altos next weekend, Aug. 13-14, showcasing more than 100 artists at Lincoln Park. It runs from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day and this year features a wine and beer garden in addition to the regular food and beverage booths.

And the month wraps up with the Palo Alto Festival of the Arts, spanning nine blocks on University Ave., on Aug. 27-28. It should be something else, with an Italian Street Painting Expo, with 100 square-foot and larger chalk pastel "paintings" being created right on the asphalt, a kids art studio and two music stages. It's 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and you can get information at

(c)2022 Silicon Valley, San Jose, Calif. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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