Sunday, March 7, 2010
Goodbye Borders, I'll miss you
My obsession with books goes back to my first tour of the tiny basement library at Uniontown Elementary School. I read with abandon, escaping to other places whenever I could. During the summer, the Bookmobile used to park at the intersection of Route 619 and Cleveland Avenue, and I would always check out the limit for the two week until it returned.
As an adult, non-fiction books have taught me a number of skills, most notably cooking and gardening. While there is no substitute for hands-on experience in either of those endeavors, the inspiration from written words and beautiful photographs can't be underestimated.
I've acquired quite a collection. I'm purely guessing, but I say the cookbooks probably number in the 500-600 range, and the gardening books 150 or so. I've donated hundreds to the Akron-Summit County Library over the last few years, and I sold about 100 on Amazon.
I've never been in a bookstore that I didn't find something to add to the collection. When Waldenbooks first offered a rewards point credit card, I was probably the first to sign up. Instead of air miles, I took my rewards in books, and in the initial years of living in an older house, the points added up quickly.
I remember when Borders came to Montrose in 1994. Rosemount Country Club actually relocated some of their golf course where the Wal-Mart was built, and satellite plazas began popping up, including the one housing Borders, across the street.
At the time there was a small, independent bookstore in Fairlawn Towne Plaza, Pickwick Books, which I think threw in the towel before the Borders even opened. I'll never forget paying for some books at the going out of business sales and the clerk bitterly saying, while surveying the waiting line, that if that many people had shopped there regularly, they wouldn't be closing.
So Borders opens, a giant store with books, music, and a coffee shop. It was a busy place in the days before everyone had the internet. The tables in the cafe were almost always filled, and the armchairs tucked throughout the store were usually occupied as well.
During my years of corporate torture, a stop at Borders was often my reward after a stressful day at the office. It was a perfect place to decompress before going home (and less dangerous than stopping at a bar).
I've spent most of my time in the magazine, cooking, and gardening sections. When I found myself unexpectedly widowed at 38, I worked my way through the grief section, often in tears on the floor of self help. I've spent many hours and many dollars in that store.
So imagine my surprise, and shock, when I learned that the Montrose store was closing. I guess I should have suspected something because the selection has seemed a little less robust in the past year or so. It also seemed like there were less people working there, especially at the check-outs, and I know I left a few times rather than wait out the long line.
I'm sure the internet, where you can now read more for free, and buy books cheaper, put a hurt on them, as well as the economy. Even a book junkie like me probably visited and left empty handed as many times as not. And from what I gathered from overhearing some conversations with the remaining (surprisingly cheerful) staff, the rent was increased in the plaza to the tipping point for keeping the store open. Apparently a Hobby Lobby is taking it's space, and there are still a lot of empty storefronts in that strip.
There is a Barnes & Noble just down the street. I actually prefer them for their bargain selection, but I don't like that they still charge a $25 annual fee for their discount program, which offers a lower discount on all books, vs. the free program at Borders which netted you a coupon a week for 20 - 40% off one purchase.
This is the final week before they close. Books were finally reduced to 40% off on Friday, and business was brisk. When I left there was a line stretching back to the magazine section. The Chapel Hill and Jackson stores will remain open, but neither is convenient for me to haunt regularly.
I'll probably stop one more time this week, to 'pick the bones', as one fellow shopper referred to the closing sale. I'll miss my Borders store.