Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Case of the Failing Bookstore

When I was in late middle school / early high school, I was looking for reading material. My ma told me there was this used bookstore when she was younger that was still around. And off we went.

I was introduced to Lilian Jackson Braun's "Cat Who..." series (as well as others that I don't remember now). But what I really found was a new passion — browsing through the used bookstore.

Some years later the bookstore changed locations, and still I came. Then they sold the store, and while new owners came with new prices, still I came. Not only did I come, but I saw these new owners at odd times. Like they were on my flight to and back from Vegas (a college graduation gift from my parents — chosen because of the cheap sleeping cousin's apartment).
And then these owners were going out of business. They sold to someone else; that didn't work out (for reasons I won't go into), and they came back. But only temporarily. They sold again. This new owner only lasted a short while (I visited on a trip home — I was now in grad school).

I guess it was empty for a little while before someone else tried their hand at becoming the proud owners of the local used bookstore. When I went inside this time, it was like a new place. What had been a cramped and dark place had been opened up, with seating and lighting added. The pricing had changed again (of course), and the gap in ownership meant the current owners had been unable to get ahold of the customer cards (names, numbers, and trade credits earned). Still, I was excited. I was living here again, and now there's this cozy potential reading hang out.

Within a week of my first visit (an admittedly slow-coming first visit), the store front says "Going Out of Business Sale." I'm sure you can imagine the crashing disappointment. They'll be closing on the 19th. Apparently, they weren't even able to make the $450 rent each month.

I can't help but feel sad. I already had hints that my hometown wasn't really one for reading. I never had many readers to speak to IRL, book clubs at the library are held at other branches, it seems most of the crowd at the local library is there for the computers, and even the local B&N is closing down (grr... but's that's another story).

But I can't help thinking of what might have been. On my first visit I asked about an online presence. The lady who had purchased the store said yes, they had an email address. *Blinks* An email addy?! That's an online presence? I'd been thinking a blog, a website, or participation on a social network (facebook, etc.) — something to grab attention.

I don't know if/when there will be new owners, but why couldn't the store be more? Or is a bookstore in this city a lost hope? As much as it saddens me, I can only think (with 5 owners in the last 15 years, each one for a shorter and shorter length of time) this is the conclusion of the failing bookstore.
Do you have a similar sad tale? Or maybe there is a success story where you live (and I'm not referring to the biggies - B&N, Borders, even Half-Price Books)?

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