Thursday, February 17, 2011

Shuttered but Not Forgotten

Rumored in the press for a while but buried among stories of aliens and socialists, was the news that the book seller Borders Books and Music was in trouble. Storm tossed by the economic downturn and the public's turn to online resources for books and music, the iconic stores were suffering huge losses. When they declared Chapter 11 Bankruptcy yesterday, it was inevitable that store closings were part of the plan. A list was published and I checked out the soon to be shuttered locations and found a few old favorites among the victims.

I admit, I do not shop much at real live book stores anymore, mostly because I am not that big of a book reader and because their classical music selections became a shell of what they used to carry. The last book I bought from Borders was also so dammed expensive, made all the worse by realizing that if I was a bit patient I could have saved over $10 to have it shipped to me from an online seller.

But about 10 years ago I (and it seemed many others as well) frequented the stores and kept them in good stead. When I lived in Jefferson City, a visit to the Borders in KC or St Louis was a breath of civilization, I could get things I never saw in Jefferson City's Wal-Mart dominated retail world. On business trips, they were a place I could go to be around people and not stuck in a drab, same old hotel room.

One of the stores slated to close is the one in Deerfield, IL at 49 S. Waukegan Rd. Located at a busy intersection in north suburban Chicago, this was one of my refuges. As I motored back to the drab little room I rented from a friend in Waukegan while living a short time in the area, I passed this store and usually took a few minutes to stop. I had little else to do. I would get a cup of coffee, wander around, get a magazine or a CD and just relax in the middle of my stressful commute. But time must have chipped away at the customer base and it is among the unlucky. I doubt even I could have kept it going.

Another old haunt is the one in east Wichita at 1715 Rock Rd. I frequented Wichita during my Beverly days even if my business took me elsewhere in south central Kansas. Wichita was a breath of urban air in among the small towns and wheat fields. Just down the street from this Borders was a fine Asian restaurant with some good Chinese and sushi to boot. After pigging out, I (and sometimes others traveling with me) would retire to the store for coffee, browsing and usually a purchase or two. If I were still frequenting Wichita (have not been there in years) like I used to, I would certainly miss this location and would be annoyed to have to go all the way out west of town for the remaining store. I guess that is where the business is now.

Sadly, the closest one to me will be the only one in the area to close. Located up north of the river at 8628 Boardwalk in among a big box, strip mall development, I sometimes popped in when suburban shopping at the near by Target, Kohls or the dreaded Wal-Mart was planned.

Barnes and Noble, Borders competitor (and like Walgreens and CVS, seem to locate opposite each other) seems to be weathering the storm a bit better. There is a B & N close to me, but I always preferred the more casual and friendlier Borders. They had better CD selection too. I really do not get to that store much either, and I can walk there on a good day.

Sadly I fear it may be inevitable that all Borders will eventually close. Bankruptcies like these seldom work out. As I mentioned, I am part of the problem, but when the stores fail to stock what I want (I know my book and CD tastes are not actually in the mainstream) I have to take my dollars elsewhere.

Thanks Borders locations mentioned above, you were a fine and well remembered part of my life. I wish it would have ended differently.

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