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Mother Kali's eager to turn newest page.

Byline: RETAIL NOTEBOOK By Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

Karen Luna sees beyond the bare studs and dangling loops of roughed-in electrical circuits, and is thrilled by her vision.

In a gutted, 60-plus-year-old building that is being transformed into the newest incarnation of Mother Kali's Books, the bookstore manager says, "What we're trying to create is the women's community space and the progressive community space that really had been the seed behind the (Mother Kali's) store 30 years ago."

Mother Kali's, founded in 1975 by three women operating out of an apartment, gave up its longtime home on East 13th Avenue just west of the University of Oregon campus last summer. It has been closed to retail business ever since, as remodeling at the new site at 18th Avenue and Willamette Street has dragged on at least three months beyond the original timeline.

But selling books always has been just one function of the nonprofit organization, whose larger purpose is to serve as a knot that binds the local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and progressive communities.

Mother Kali's has functioned as a meeting place and refuge through three decades and four locations. Even its current state of incompletion has not eliminated that role.

Supporters have volunteered for much of the remodeling work, from demolition of interior walls to laying groundwork for a massive ramp that will serve as the front entrance for both disabled and able-bodied customers.

The deconstructed building has even served as a temporary home for the gay- and lesbian-friendly Metropolitan Community Church.

"Even though it's like this, it's continued to be a community space," Luna says.

Insulation and sheetrock are expected to be installed by the end of next week, and optimistic estimates now are that the bookstore will reopen to the public "in a few weeks," she says.

The remodeling project has been slowed by scheduling conflicts and construction delays, but mostly by the scope of work that was needed, which wasn't apparent until remodeling was under way.

In addition to clearing much of the main floor of interior walls, work has included the addition of several structural supports and other measures to increase the building's soundness.

"It's been hard, because we had to make a decision about this building, knowing almost nothing," Luna says. "We didn't get to open up any walls and look at things until the other tenants moved out."

The two-story, 4,800-square-foot building at 1849 Willamette had been divided into a warren of 10 offices before the former tenants moved to make room for a renovation.

Jim Poverman, one of three partners who owns both the Meridian and the Mother Kali's building next door, says patience has been a key to the project.

"Remodeling always takes longer than people think, and this is no exception," he says. "Changing (the building's use) basically from office to retail has some complexities to it, and has taken longer than we wanted.

"It is going to be with great satisfaction that we see them open up."

The project is expected to cost the bookstore's nonprofit board about $45,000 even after volunteer labor and contributed materials are factored in. But the result will be a space more than double the size of Mother Kali's former location on 13th Avenue.

Much of the store's increased size will be dedicated to space for meetings and classes, along with headquarters for some of the community groups that serve Mother Kali's customers.

Retail Notebook runs on Thursdays. Joe Mosley can be reached at 338-2384 or


Volunteers Sherri Esser (left) and Brenda Stedman are helping to move Mother Kali's Books to its new location. The new site for Mother Kali's is at Willamette Street and 18th Avenue.
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Title Annotation:Business; The new bookstore also will serve as a meeting site and refuge for the gay community
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 29, 2005
Previous Article:Look beyond border.
Next Article:BRIEFLY.

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