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From the Irvine World News Headlines....
A Whale of a Tale makes a splash as independent children's bookstore!

Being a little fish in a large pond is fine by children's bookstore owner, Alex Uhl.

Since 1989, Uhl has been providing reading books for children through her store, A Whale of a Tale, in University Center, across from UC Irvine.

And while there are bookstores in the immediate area also selling children's books, Uhl says she doesn't even consider competition.

"To be honest, I try not to even think about competition," said Uhl, who was born in Greece. "I try to Stay focused on what I am doing, because if you don't you can really make yourself nuts. It's important for me to try and be an individualist.

"We Pride ourselves on being extremely well-versed and up-to-date on what we sell," she continued. "I personally spend a lot of time researching and reading the books myself; and the entire staff is equally knowledgeable. Any bookstore can be a wonderful place to spend quality time relaxing with a good book, listening to a guest speaker or just taking in the surroundings."

Uhl said she first thought about owning her own children's book store when her now grown son was an infant.

"I'd always visit this little shop in Corona Del Mar, and I just fell in love with the idea of owning something similar," she said. "Years later, it went up for sale, but there were too many people trying to buy it, so I decided to continue my research and found that Irvine was lacking in children's bookstores. Today, in retrospect, I think it worked out for the best. This way, I didn't have to fill someone else's shoes."

Uhl said that when she looks back on her beginnings, she is truly amazed by how far she has come.

I'd never had my own business, just the passion for children's books," she said. " It was something that I wanted to do."

Since the early days when Uhl started out with the little, the shop has now been computerized and three years ago, she moved into a bigger retail space within the same center.

"Now we're heavily into community outreach," she said. "I've established excellent rapport with publishers and we have hosted some pretty big authors. But even from the beginning, we've catered to the community and that hasn't changed even though we have in other areas."

While she works six days a week (the store is closed on Sundays), Uhl said she doesn't mind because she loves her career.

"I've really put my heart and soul into this from the start," she said. "It's not easy being an independent bookstore owner - you've really got to be passionate about it or it isn't going to work."

ALEX UHL's "A Whale of a Tale" Bookshoppe is a well-known fixture in the University Center. In her hands is the Caldecott Medal winner " So You Want To Be President?"

At A Whale of a Tale, Uhl dishes out great kids' classics. as well as events to keep them coming back for more. In fall 1999, the 1,6000-square foot shop, packed with books ranging from mysteries to how-tos, was hosting J.K. Rowling, author of the wildly popular "Harry Potter" series, and more recently, the store featured award-winning author and illustrator Kevin Henkes.

"Because we're not in a mall or a large visible center, we rely on attracting people through special events," Uhl said. "we bring in entertainment such as author presentations , workshops and story reading hours."

She added that she sells more than books. For instance, A Whale of a Tale offers small gift items, including stuffed animals and cards, which are scattered throughout the library-like store.

"I'm Greek, so I like a good selection," she laughed.

An Article by: Debbie L. Sklar
For Irvine World News