This morning in my e-mail inbox was a sad message from the CEO of Borders. You probably got it, too. Five months after the chain filed for bankruptcy and closed a number of its stores, all of the other Borders are now closing, too. They tried to make a deal, tried to find a buyer, but everything fell through. And now, all in one fell swoop, 400 bookstores will shut down, and 11,000 booksellers will be out of work.
This is sad news, completely sad. Yes, it was a chain, but it was such a pleasant chain. And for many, many people not as lucky as we are, it was the only bookstore in town. What will they do now? Where will they browse? How will they happen across books they didn't know they wanted to know about?
Our neighborhood Borders was over on University Avenue in St. Paul, in Midway. I used to go there fairly often on a winter Saturday, to browse the tables of new stuff, to check to see if my friend's books were in stock (they always were). Sometimes I'd turn them cover-out so they would stand out on the shelves. That Borders was my to-go place for travel books--essays, guides, maps. All of the travel guides for recent vacations--Paris, London, Dublin--came from their upstairs travel section, which was tucked between the cookbooks and the CDs, and within sniffing distance of the chocolate bars and the coffeepot.
No, it wasn't an indie, but it had a nice vibe, and friendly people, and it was light and airy and full of good things to read.
In its last year or so, it was clear things weren't going well. The books on the tables grew sparser. The shelves weren't restocked as often, and more books were turned out, to fill in the gaps. My friend's books disappeared--sold, which is good, but not replaced, which was not. That Borders closed in the first round of closures earlier this year, but by then I hadn't been there in months.
When I drive that part of University Avenue now, I look over and see the empty building, and remember winter days sitting at one of those wooden tables upstairs by the window, drinking heavily creamed coffee, sucking on a Lindor truffle, maybe, and paging through the Rough Guide to Ireland. I was dreaming about the future, but all around me was quickly becoming the past.
Do you have fond memories of Borders? You can leave them here.