July 31, 2011 I experienced one of the saddest days of my life. As I was in our local mall, I found that the bookstore I have worked in for more than 20 years had shut its doors permanently without notice. As the buyer for the store I knew we had been struggling for a while, but this was a shock. Later that night my boss called me and let me know how the decision to close was reached. It was also explained why the method of closure was chosen. It was understandable from a business perspective, but very hard from a personal point of view.
This is the second bookstore that I have been at when it closed. Both were tenants in the same mall, although the ownership of that mall has changed several times in between. The first was a B.Dalton back in 1988. B. Dalton’s had been bought out by Barnes & Noble the prior year. The stores were being revamped and local management was allowed a voice in tailoring the inventory to their client-base’s tastes. The lease was up for renewal and the mall owners in their infinite wisdom doubled the rent and would not negotiate on key items. After many attempts to come to terms it was time to close the store.
That started 10 months of driving 60 miles to have access to a bookstore. Remember this is 1988. No internet at my house. No online bookstores that I would have access to. Yes, there was the typical fare of best sellers and promoted titles at KMart and the grocery store, but the selection was extremely limited. Thank God for the libraries. At least they had selections that went beyond the top selling 25 titles. And in Minnesota if your local library doesn’t have a book on its shelf you can take advantage of inter-library loan, bringing a book in from another library.
I looked into starting a bookstore myself, but I did not have the assets needed to finance it. That August I heard that someone was looking to open an independent bookstore. I approached this person, offering my help if they’d like. Knowing that I had worked for B.Dalton’s, I was asked to look at the ROSI (recommended opening store inventory) that was significantly more than was budgeted for the proposed store. The rest, as they say, was history. From that day until two days before I saw the store closed, I had the supreme pleasure of helping keep new books available in our area.
From the start we were not your typical bookstore. The owner had started as a yarn and needlework shop in1971 and was the last original independent merchant in the mall. From the beginning we had a portion of the store dedicated to knitting and crochet and to work in the store a prospective employee needed to be able to either knit or crochet. After the fabric store left the area and the quilt shop in town closed we also added quilting fabric and supplies to our mix, as well as employees who were quilters.
Deep discounts by others selling books, limitations by the mall owners as to what we were allowed to sell, and a two year period of 14-19% unemployment took its toll. A corner had turned and recovery was happening, just not fast enough for the store to go on.
After 25 selling books I’m keeping the title of bookstoremama. If someone decides to take on opening another bookstore, you can well believe I will be there offering to help in any way I can, if they’ll have me. In the meantime I am working part-time as SEO for a web design company and catching up on my reading and sharing it with you.
Good-bye Woodwards Bookstore (and more) R.I.P.