The Reading Bug takes flight


Kianna Young

The Reading Bug is in one of the core parts of downtown San Carlos, located on Laurel Street.

The Reading Bug, a beloved local bookstore, is set to move locations in 2024 after 15 years in its San Carlos location. 

According to The Reading Bug’s website, JMS Development Partners (JMS) outbid them on the property, and the bookstore will have to move after their lease expires. 

JMS plans to demolish the entire structure, located at 785 Laurel St., to construct a three-story building, including office and retail space on the bottom floor.

The Reading Bug’s website explains that this new building will take around two years to construct and that JMS has made it clear that the rent will be too high for them to afford. But according to the owner of JMS, John Baer, there are complications with this plan.

JMS Development has put planned renovation for 785 Laurel St. on hold in the near term because of uncertainty in the San Carlos real estate market driven by inflation and rising interest rates,” Baer said.

Nonetheless, JMS’s purchase of the building means that The Reading Bug will have to move. 

The owner of The Reading Bug, Lauren Savage, said that they have known for about a year that their lease would not be renewed after the summer of 2024, explaining that rent has become too expensive for them to afford. 

There is very little, if any, profit for a bookstore. We do what we do because we love books and engaging kids at an early age in reading and learning.”

— Lauren Savage

We are currently under-market in rent, and we would not be able to afford the going rates these days,” Savage said. 

But according to Savage, the Reading Bug never focused on profits.

“There is very little, if any, profit for a bookstore. We do what we do because we love books and engaging kids at an early age in reading and learning,” Savage said.

Some San Carlos residents were at one point those kids that Savage described and have fond memories of the bookstore. 

“It was kind of my first exposure to a lot of books in general because they always had things like the author reading events,” said Tara Krishnan, a Carlmont sophomore.

Along with impacting the lives of community members, businesses like The Reading Bug significantly contribute to their respective markets. 

“Independent retailers, in particular, have long played an outsized role in identifying and introducing new products to consumers. This has been well documented in the book industry, where many beloved books and authors owe their initial success to recommendations by a few local bookstores. More recently, market surveys have found that readers browsing in an independent bookstore ‘discover’ new books at about three times the rate they do while shopping on Amazon,” read a paper from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a national nonprofit research and educational organization.

The city of San Carlos also recognizes the value of local businesses. A portion of the San Carlos Economic Development Plan aims to consider ways that the city can preserve existing spaces in order to accommodate existing and new businesses, as well as support the construction of affordable commercial spaces.  

“The Reading Bug is a tremendous asset for the community, and we truly hope that they will be able to stay in San Carlos. Having a business like them contributes immensely to the diversity of our downtown retail businesses and likely attracts other retailers to San Carlos,” said Adam Aronson, the economic development and housing manager for San Carlos.

The Reading Bug has an active GoFundMe with a $100,000 goal. If they can find another location in San Carlos, they expect the cost of renovating to be anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000.

The Reading Bug holds a special place in the hearts of many San Carlos residents, so most hope they will be able to stay in the city.

“The benefits The Reading Bug provides to San Carlos go beyond sales tax dollars in that they provide a wonderful gathering place and service for so many families,” Aronson said.