Friends and community rally to keep local bookstore open

A dedicated crew of volunteers is committed to keeping Berkshire Books open while owner Lynn Kuehl (seated, center) recovers from a leg amputation. The volunteers include former Clayton Books owner and local attorney, Joel Harris (standing) Cleo Bolen (left) and Bria Stevens, (right). Bolen is a former Clayton Books customer and Stevens is a student at Diablo Valley College. (Photo Tamara Steiner)

Just before Thanksgiving, Lynn Kuehl of Berkshire Books in Concord had a medical emergency that cost him a leg and landed him in the hospital for several weeks.

Berkshire Books is a one-man operation and without Kuehl on the job, the little neighborhood bookstore on Clayton Road had to close. Things looked pretty dark for a while.

But Kuehl has a strong network of friends, and word quickly spread. Concord City Councilman Edi Birsan, who meets at the store with several others on Saturday mornings as the Curmudgeon Club, passed the word to Pioneer publisher Tamara Steiner. She contacted Joel Harris, former owner of Clayton Books, which was itself a popular neighborhood bookstore in the Clayton Station until it closed in 2010. Harris moved fast to pull together the old crew, and last week, the former staff and friends of Clayton Books, including store manager Bob Pimm and Harris, reopened Berkshire Books and will keep the store running while Kuehl recovers.

Although limited in movement, Kuehl was on hand for the store’s reopening Thurs., Dec. 5.

The cheerful bookseller suffered aneurisms and blood clots in both legs resulting in the amputation of one leg.

Doctors were able to save the other by placing a stent in the artery. Kuehl expects to begin training for a prothesis in about three weeks.

Undaunted by the experience, the 65-year-old noted the alternative. “I either lose the leg or die,” he said. “The choice was easy.”

Harris, who has known Kuehl as a friend and colleague, has volunteers lined up to keep the store open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. every day except Mondays through Dec. 22 at 3480 Clayton Road.

To celebrate, there is a huge signing event on Saturday, Dec. 14, with both children’s and adult book authors – including Daniel San Souci. Harris will be there signing copies of his book, “Images of America: Concord.” For additional details, go to

“Berkshire Books has a great collection of new gift books, local history books, holiday books, journals, collectibles and other gifts for the holidays,” Harris says. “So please come support your local bookstore.”

Harris says the crew could use a little more help. To pitch in, contact or

Related story update: Community responds to news of Concord bookstore woes