Monday, September 12, 2011

The death and life of a great American bookstore

The End.

It seems wrong to begin a story like that, doesn't it? Particularly a story about a bookstore. It should begin "In the beginning," or "Once upon a time," or "It was love at first sight."

Especially "It was love at first sight."

After 40 years in business, Borders No. 1, the company's original Ann Arbor store, is scheduled to close on Monday. By late August, posters on the windows declared, "NOTHING HELD BACK!" -- and that meant the fixtures and furniture as well. The goods -- books, but also games and puzzles and teddy bears and throw rugs -- gave off the sour tang of a picked-over flea market.

A lonely security guard stood watch; he was added just recently, an employee said, after a shoplifting incident.

Borders Rewards customers have been receiving e-mails for some time now, ever since the chain declared bankruptcy and announced it was closing its 399 remaining stores. A month ago it was "30 to 50 percent off!" Now it's "60 to 80 percent off!"

There was recently a sign taped to No. 1's front door. It said, "Now Hiring: Apply Online at Borders.com." It was serious -- the liquidators needed to hire part-time help -- but it seemed like a sick joke.

What happened to the love? more