Charleston-based publishers of local, regional books merge (copy)

"College of Charleston" is part of Arcadia Publishing's College History Series. File

A Mount Pleasant publisher of books that drill down into local history is buying a like-minded imprint from Louisiana, its first acquisition after coming under new ownership last year.

Arcadia Publishing plans to purchase a "significant majority" of the assets of New Orleans-based Pelican Publishing Co. in a deal that's expected to be finalized in May.

Financial terms were not disclosed. 

Pelican was founded in 1926 and has a catalog of more than 2,500 titles that center mainly on the Bayou State, including "Cajun Night Before Christmas," which is in its 25th printing, and "Leah Chase: Listen, I Say Like This," a biography of the Creole chef and owner of Dooky Chase restaurant. The family-owned business publishes about 40 to 50 books a year, according to its website.

Founded in 1994, Arcadia has produced about 14,000 titles that focus on “hyper-local” history and culture. Many are heavy on vintage photographs and have distinct sepia images on the jacket covers.

The Wando Park Boulevard company publishes about 500 new titles a year, selling them through diverse retail channels, such as hardware stores. Its top seller is “Biltmore Estate,” which is about George Washington Vanderbilt II’s famous mansion in Asheville. It has sold 80,000 copies during the past 14 years.

The company also owns The History Press, which specializes in local and regional theme-based books, from food to famous hauntings in American cities.

Last May, Arcadia was sold to an investor group that was looking to make acquisitions. Publishing industry veteran David Steinberger, former head of Perseus Books Group, was named chief executive officer.

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“It’s a unique publishing approach,” Steinberger told the Washington Post in a recent profile of Arcadia's business model. “The books are completely evergreen. Once you publish them, they sell forever. So even though the initial numbers are modest, you’re creating a kind of annuity.”

In a written statement, he described Pelican as "a publisher that fits well with Arcadia’s mission, which is to connect people with their past, with their communities and with one another.”

The soon-to-be acquired company has been owned since 1970 by the family of Kathleen Calhoun Nettleton, who is president and publisher. She plans to stay with the company after the Arcadia deal closes.

“We could not be more pleased to have found the right long-term home for Pelican,” she said in a prepared statement. 

A spokeswoman for Arcadia told the Associated Press the South Carolina buyer "plans to maintain a publishing presence in New Orleans, and is working with Pelican to determine what that will look like."

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott