New Owner for William Stout Architectural Books in San Francisco

William Stout Architectural Books in San Francisco, Calif., has been acquired by the Eames Institute of Infinite Curiosity, "which has pledged to keep what longtime customers love about the store intact," Datebook reported. The Eames Institute in Petaluma purchased the business in October in a deal that included specialty imprint William Stout Publishers and the store's inventory of more than 70,000 titles.

The new nonprofit, named for Mid-Century Modern industrial designers Charles and Ray Eames, has retained the store's four employees. Plans call for the bookstore to remain in the 1850s-era building that "hasn't changed much since William Stout created the initial design of the space in the 1980s. Stout has owned his eponymous bookstore, specializing in architecture, art, urban planning and several fields of design, for 48 years and imbued the space with his own aesthetic," Datebook noted. 

Eames was founded in spring 2022 by Llisa Demetrios, the Eameses' granddaughter, with a mission to promote interest in architecture, design and the Eames legacy. The institute, headquartered at a ranch owned by Demetrios, is funded by Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia, a longtime customer of William Stout who has called the store "a true testament to the importance of design." 

"For us, it was a natural fit in terms of this idea of preserving something that was worth preserving so that future generations could take away from it," said Sam Grawe, chief brand and marketing officer at the Eames Institute. "Preserving something like a retail store, you're not preserving it in the sense of a museum. You're preserving it more as a service."

Stout, who has transitioned into a consulting role for the store that will continue to bear his name, said, "They've done a nice job keeping the look of the bookstore the same and trying to keep the integrity of the bookstore. And when you think of one of the great industrial designers of the world that was in California, you think of Eames."

A key in the transition has been Erik Heywood, the Eames Institute's director of retail and brand development, who added: "I've shopped and known the store since I moved here 14 years ago. It's nice to have a sense of what it is, and how to carry that forward in the future."

Eventually, the Eames Institute hopes to expand the store's programming to include discussions and author presentations, but Heywood said more immediate plans include overhauling the store's website to make its extensive collection of rare and out-of-print books more easily searchable, Datebook wrote.

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