Independent bookstores are hard to come by in my town. There is the university bookstore, which has a very small selection of fiction and quite a huge selection of text books. There's the shop that specializes in botanical reading material. A couple of antique stores that sport shelves of old books for sale. And two Christian bookstores. But nothing that really fits my needs.
And so I was ecstatic when Barnes and Noble came to town. Their huge selection of books, the open and friendly atmosphere. The staff are knowledgeable about books and extremely helpful. Not to mention the store opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 11 p.m.! I love walking into the store at 9 in the morning, with hardly another shopper around. Only once did I take advantage of their late closing hour--that time I was in the middle of Anne Bishop's Black Jewels trilogy and ran into a cliff hanger I just couldn't let go.
I was a proud Barnes and Noble customer (still am), armed with my membership card, when Borders came to town. A store opened up just down the street from my house. I begrudgingly went inside and instantly hated it. Okay, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. It just didn't feel like home--not the way Barnes and Nobles did.
The storefront which came to house my local Borders had once been an indoor mall. It had seen better days. The mall was torn down to make way for an open air mall, revitalization the area desperately needed. If you ask me, Borders is what made that area come alive again. Restaurants, a department store along with other shops and stores, and a movie theater were built around it. My husband and I often would take in a weekly movie and dinner with a stop at the bookstore for good measure.
Somewhere along the way, a special place grew in my heart for Borders. I soon discovered that Borders was a treasure trove of those harder to find books. More and more I was able to find books at Borders that I wanted but not so much at Barnes and Noble (to be fair though, I did often shop at both stores regularly--often making a point of visiting both stores on my every other week book excursions). Sometimes when buying books, I would chat with the person behind the cash register, sharing book recommendations and other bookish talk.
The staff were extremely helpful. I remember one visit in particular in which a Borders' employee asked if she could help me. I didn't want to bother her, and so I told her no and proceeded to look up what I needed on a computer terminal available to help customers find books (something Barnes and Noble doesn't have, but I wish they did! It's a great resource.). I found the book on the computer and proceeded to head over to the mystery section to search for the book. Only, I didn't make it to far. The employee approached with book in hand. She'd evidently looked over my shoulder as I searched for the book and beat me to it. Sure, I could have been offended that she did that, but instead I was impressed with the degree of service.
In another instance, after searching on the computer and finding that a book was "likely" on the shelf, I couldn't find it anywhere. I approached an employee for assistance. The Borders' employee checked the shelf, checked nearby shelves, checked other sections, and even enlisted his coworkers in the back to search their stock for the book. He was determined to find it. And he did.
I came to love my Borders. Once it had felt like a big box store but now it feels like the cozy bookstore it is.
I was greatly saddened when I learned that Borders will be closing all its stores. I feel as if I am losing a best friend. That store and I have been through so much together. It was the place I went when I needed a book fix and when I was feeling down and in need of serious retail therapy. I celebrated the news of my pregnancy there. It was the first place I thought of when I had to get that last minute birthday card. I loved browsing their shelves, starting with the new releases and making my way to the fiction section, nonfiction and eventually crime fiction and fantasy. They had a good movie collection and I discovered new musical artists there.
I haven't been in the store in months, not since the baby was born, I confess. Too much else has been going on and book buying is the farthest from my mind. I can't help but think though how my Mouse will never know what a great store Borders was, never get to go to an author signing there or browse those great shelves. She won't get to go to a magic show or story time there. She will not miss it having never known the store. But I will. And I feel a sense of loss for her sake as well as my own.
Mostly though, I feel bad for the employees of the store and for all those others who will be impacted by the store's closure. So many people out of work. So many customers without a bookstore to call home. My own in-laws will no longer have any bookstores in their hometown.
Goodbye, Borders. Thank you for the good times.
© 2011, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved.If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.