Friday, February 25, 2011

Do You Know What? We're Going To Seduce Them. . . .

"We're going to seduce them with our square footage, and our discounts, and our deep armchairs, and... Our cappuccino.
That's right. They're going hate us at the beginning, but... But we'll get 'em in the end.
Do you know why?. . .Because we're going to sell them cheap books and legal addictive stimulants. In the meantime, we'll just put up a big sign: "Coming soon: a FoxBooks superstore and the end of civilization as you know it." 

Do you recognize those lines?  Of course you do.  Who didn't fall in love with the little Shop Around The Corner. .it was, as the line in the movie says, "Enchanting". I would have loved to just sit in it, and absorbed the atmosphere, or even better have owned such a dream little shop!



And who among you didn't get a little misty-eyed when they showed this scene?

I loved this movie, not so much for its story line, but the scenes. .the warm lighting and of course, Autumn!!  And it always made me sad that she had to close her shop. . oh, I know. .it opened up new doors for her as a writer, but in my mind, I'm thinking that she could have done both.

What made it even more bitter was the fact that at the very same time, that this movie came out, some of my favorite independent book shops were facing closure due to the big bad Barnes & Noble was opening within blocks, and no matter that I traveled over an hour, twice a month to frequent my favorite bookstores (that those trips happened to be the next day after I got paid, was pure coincidence!), my armloads of purchased volumes, failed to keep their doors open.  I was more than misty-eyed.  I felt such a sadness watching the shelves clear, and knowing that a store that had been SO successful for decades was going to be no more. I was SO angry at the "Big Bad Bookstore".



And that created a huge problem for me. Being the admitted bookaholic (started waaay before I could read, and yes, I even loved my textbooks, often reading them through before school ever started) that I am, I now faced the choice of going through those dreaded enemy doors, or live a dreary existence, book free. .so I straightened my shoulders and marched in to face the foe, somehow justifying that as long as I didn't actually like them, that I was still being loyal to a now deceased shop (even though they were taking my money. .I didn't say it was logical!!). . .and, it did take a while, but yes, they lured me with scents of fresh coffee and baked goods, and row after row of books. .gorgeous tomes of every subject imaginable, warm lighting, just-right aisle widths. .not to crowded, not to open, but just cozy enough for that warm, "book shop" feel, complete with deep, luscious chairs, cool music, and no high pressure sales people. .plus late hours!  What can I say. .they hit me in one of my weakest points. .books. .I'm not proud.

Every time my hubs, younger daughter and I would head off for an evening of shopping in the "big city", we would cap off our adventure stopping at usually both Borders, which had built a store right down the street from the bigger B&N.  And walk out with all of arms full of loaded bags. .yeah, we bought the canvas ones, and kept them in the car. .you never knew when a drive might take you near one of their stores.  And my B&N membership card is peeling at the corners, so old, that some of the younger sales clerks are amazed to see a well used vintage card.

Yes, in-between actual trips to the bookstore, my mailman regularly drops those slim, and sometimes not so slim book cartons onto my front steps, but nothing beats hunting for books in person.

But a little over a year ago, things began to change. B&N moved from a free standing building, to a mall that already has problems with traffic flow and parking, and even with a huge remodel, the parking problem is even worse now.  The comfy chairs disappeared. Their coffee area went from being a huge open room, with dozens of tables, and a bar all around the windowed walls, to a postage stamp size floor of 4 tables. The lighting got brighter and more stark. The chess clubs, cribbage nights, book clubs and other groups disappeared from their newsletters. .then the newsletters disappeared. Their high volume, big box store attitude became more apparent.



And nearby Borders got rid of their movie and music sections, but opened up their coffee area, inviting the clubs, having acoustic music nights, bringing the feeling of community into their walls, much like an independent book shop would do.


Some former B&N patrons, upset with the logistics of their move, fled to Borders. But, apparently, it was still not enough, because with the recent announcement of Borders filing bankruptcy, came the announcement that the store that we frequented, is one that is closing. And on their heels, B&N announces that they are in trouble too. .seems that the threat of e-books is their nemesis.

I may change my mind some day. .I've learned to never say never, but I'm a holdout for the real deal. .I love the feel of a book in my hand.  Yeah, I don't like the idea that trees are losing their lives to become a book, so I really applaud when books are printed using recycled paper, and I cherish my books. .I don't throw them away, I treat them with respect.

But am I as upset with Borders closing as I was 20 years ago when my favorite local bookshops closed?  Am I going to get mysti-eyed when I see those empty shelves, and the wasted, empty store standing there? I feel badly for the employees losing their jobs, but overall, I can't say that I am. Maybe it is because I have other choices to get my book fix, but I did back then too. .have I become less of a romantic? Maybe a little more cynical in some aspects, but not really.

I think it is because I see something on the horizon that excites me. .I think that we are going to go full circle.  As so many small privately owned businesses have opened up in the past few years, I'm seeing an emergence of privately owned, independent booksellers opening their doors too.



One started out selling used books, and has been so successful, that they have now opened another shop in a neighboring shore side town down the road a few miles.  Another is a specialty book shop, aiming at young readers. What exciting news!!  


In going through a neighboring town, I've discovered a sliver of a bookstore set up in a vintage building, focused on history books, and travel. .another a mystery book shop!  Discovering these gems, to me, is like finding another antique shop, where I can browse for hours!! These are all small shops with individual personalities, where you pour your own complimentary small cup of coffee in a cup, and sip as you browse the aisles.  And look at who greets you when you walk in the door of our own local book shop?  You don't get this kind of welcome at a huge big bookstore!



It feels SO good to be "home" again!

Do YOU have a favorite local bookshop?  

2 comments:

  1. Feminist bookstores in various cities were central to my reading life in the 80s and 90s. They're all gone now, of course. Along with most little independents. There's still a couple of independents hanging on here in Edmonton. For how much longer, who knows?

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  2. I love a good bookstore. Alas, there is not one to be found (that isn't religious) within 100 miles of here. :0(

    I do hope the small time business makes a comeback.....

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