Chronicle Books, San Francisco

An independent publisher’s latest store is a super-flexible, super-sized bookshelf.
Posted July 1, 2009
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Chronicle Books is an independent publishing house best known for the “Griffin and Sabine” trilogy of interactive books, as well as for its fine arts, cooking and children’s titles. The San Francisco-based company also operates a retail arm that consists of three stores in its home city: one at its headquarters, another at the downtown Metreon shopping mall, and its newest, on Union Street, in the city’s trendy Cow Hollow neighborhood.

Chronicle executives say the retail stores serve a dual purpose: as a sales outlet, and as laboratories that help the company track consumers’ tastes. “With the greater breadth of our list that’s available in our stores, we’re able to see the impact of shifts in our publishing categories, the effect of one cover direction over another, the way our books and gifts can be merchandised and packaged more effectively, and much more,” says Sarah Williams, executive director of business development.

Chronicle Books’ latest locale, a 1000-square-foot storefront, was designed by Macy Architecture, a San Francisco-based firm that created the company’s previous retail spaces. For Union Street, the publisher asked Macy to create a prototype suitable for a roll-out to other cities. As a result, “the store is designed to function as a highly flexible, deconstructed bookshelf that facilitates the creative display of books and their associated collateral products,” says Mark Macy, the design firm’s principal.

Macy also notes that his firm didn’t compose conventional two-dimensional drawings in the design phase. “Instead, we created the space entirely in a 3-D modeling program and sent the resulting project specifications directly to the general contractor and the display systems fabricators,” he explains. “Those companies, in turn, used that information to instruct their CNC machines on how to build the wall panels, display cubes, graphic panels, display tables and cashwrap for the store with maximum precision and economy – two useful elements for a rollout program.”

And while you can’t judge a book by its cover, designers wanted to help passersby associate the store with its namesake publishing house. For that reason, they infused the façade with Chronicle Publishing’s signature blue hue.

Project Participants:

Chronicle Books, San Francisco: Michael Carabetta, creative director; Sarah Williams, executive director of business development

Architecture and Design
Macy Architecture, San Francisco: Mark Macy, principal, Alex Pettas, design team

General Contractor
Johnstone & McAuliffe Construction, Pacifica, Calif.

Display System Fabricator
Creative Commercial Environments, Eugene, Ore.

Cyro Industries, Parsippany, N.J.

Carpeting and Flooring
Eurotex, Philadelphia
Flor, Elmhurst, Ill.

Fiberboard and Shelving System
SierraPine, Rosewood, Calif.

Formica Corp., Cincinnati
Nevamar Decorative Surfaces, Shelton, Conn.

Antares Enterprises, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.

Standoff Systems
C.R. Laurence, Los Angeles