Our local Borders is one of the 200 “underperforming” stores that will close as a result of the recent Chapter 11 filing by their parent company. I’d seen the list of closings by the time I went to the company’s website, www.borders.com, and checked the page for my local store. It already carried an announcement: “This store is expected to close no later than the end of April. We’ve enjoyed serving the many customers who have shopped this store over the years.”
It reminded me of the scene in You’ve Got Mail when Meg Ryan had to post a similar sign on the door of The Shop Around the Corner, only this wasn’t an independent bookstore being eaten by a chain; it was a chain store. When you get right down to it, the important thing is this: It was a bookstore.
I live in an area that was farmland when our first house went up, a place so rural that people scratched their heads and made sure they had a few snacks in the car before setting out. My town was created as a “planned community.” Even so, the area was devoid of significant retail opportunities for years. Then we got a mall.
We had shopping centers, and even a Barnes and Noble in the other direction; but this location was convenient for me. It lay between home and what was then my office. Borders was an anchor store.
Shopping at Borders was impersonal most of the time, in a nice way. The employees were helpful the few times I asked for assistance and polite when I checked out. That was all I needed.
Once an employee saw me lingering among the Mystery shelves with a studied expression and tried to help me select a book. She didn’t realize that sometimes I stood in Borders for 30 minutes with that look on my face. I loved scanning every title on the shelves before settling on just the right one. Finding a new book is an experience to be savored.
The Digital Age is the reason often given for the demise of bookstores. I’ve considered e-book readers for a while now, but I don’t have one yet. It isn’t that I object, but sometimes I’d like to slow technology down. Yes, I would.
The extinction of bookstores has been predicted for years, so I suppose we should be prepared, but it still makes me sick. Even though it wasn’t spoken for the same reason, I keep thinking of Tom Hanks’ line in You’ve Got Mail: “Don’t cry, Shopgirl.”
One of the last times I was in Borders, I was on an assignment from my publisher to find the shelf on which my book would sit once it was published, then to see what would be on either side of it. I talked to a woman named Laura, who was lovely. “Would you like to have a signing here?” she asked. “In fact, if you want to contact the ghost hunters who write about haunted places in Ohio, we can do a Sci-Fi Night with multiple authors.”
It was a fine offer, made—I believe--before she knew her store would be closing “no later than the end of April.” So thanks, Laura. Thanks to everyone at the Borders in Deerfield Towne Center, Mason, Ohio. I’ll miss you.