The River Reader, a bookstore that has been an integral part of the literary fabric of Guerneville for 17 years, shuttered its doors Thursday for the last time.

"This last year, I sold half as many books as I needed to break even, and it has been that way for the last few years," said Susan Ryan, who bought the store five years ago.

Ryan, a Santa Rosa resident, stood for the last time at the counter Thursday, maybe out of habit, behind a bouquet of yellow carnations and three bottles of wine left over from a wake she and supporters held for the store last week.

Bookcases have been dismantled and were leaning against the walls, the few remaining books were boxed or waiting for customers to pick them up, and a redwood tree made of red, brown and green construction paper stood in what had been the children's reading section.

"I think it is the economy, this community is struggling, and people buying books online," Ryan said.

Ryan bought the store five years ago from Francis Werner, who started it 12 years earlier.

The closure leaves Twice Told Books, which deals primarily in used books but also sells some new books, as Guerneville's only bookstore.

It also leaves a hole in Guerneville's literary calendar.

Ryan hosted book-signing sessions for local authors, whose books she featured. Last year there were 30 such events.

"It is hard for local authors to get into bookstores," Ryan said.

She also hosted poetry and book clubs, children's reading sessions, held fundraisers and took authors and artists into the classrooms at the local elementary school.

"This is my passion, I love this, I love being part of the community," Ryan said.

The closing was met with sadness throughout the community.

"People are coming in crying," said Chris Wood of Camp Meeker, who was making his daily visit to the store. "This is the best thing going in town."

Laura Ladoni of Cazadero was a regular patron and a book club member.

"It is really sad," Ladoni said. "It was a big part of the community. She held onto it as long as she could. It is a sign of the times. She is going to be terribly missed."

Ryan also was treasurer of the Russian River Chamber of Commerce.

"It is where I bought all of my gifts," said Kayte Guglielmino, chamber office manager. "I bought some of the bookshelves, just so I could have some of her shop."

You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or