After more than 20 years on St. Paul’s Grand Avenue, Sixth Chamber Used Books will close at the end of March, its owner announced Wednesday.
The store opened at 1332 Grand Av. in 1995 and has been a fixture in the neighborhood for years, longtime customers said in Facebook posts.
“The Grand Ave community is losing a gem,” one customer wrote.
Another said: “So sad. One of my favorite things about where I live.”
For Nichole Lange, who moved in across the street in 2015, it was a place of joy.
“It’s like you’re walking into your friend’s house, filled with books and games,” said Lange, who visits and buys books every Saturday after eating at nearby Colossal Cafe.
Owner James Williams said he could no longer compete with internet giants, especially Amazon.com, and the shift toward reading on electronic devices such as tablets and e-readers.
“It was an emotional decision, because I believe so much in the model of the open bookstore, open library,” Williams said. “The way the future is coming, I don’t agree with it. I don’t think it’s a good thing.”
When he opened Sixth Chamber, there were seven other bookstores on Grand Avenue, he said. Now only Red Balloon remains. Common Good Books landed nearby in 2012.
Losing his ‘baby’
Williams remembers years ago when Amazon, then a small company, started buying hundreds of his books.
It was great, at first. “We were very excited to get those checks,” he said. But then it became the competition.
The store was an early adapter to selling its own books online. But eventually those sales slowed. So Williams brought in more nonbook items, such as toys and games, to sell.
Then digital books came on the market, with a focus on the most popular books.
“It really hit us hard,” Williams said. “People didn’t have books to sell us. ... We did everything we could to stem the losses, but it didn’t work.”
His older sister, Kathryn Williams Rolfers, a librarian in Boulder, Colo., said she’s sad about her brother’s store closing but still believes people want to read books.
“He survived Borders and survived Barnes and Noble, but we knew nothing is forever,” she said. “He’s given so much to that area. ... It was a great ride.”
Starting next week, the store will begin reducing its hours. On Jan. 10, sales and large discounts will take over the store.
Customers and neighbors still can travel 35 miles to visit sister store Fox Den Used Books in River Falls, Wis., which will remain open because “the small-town climate seems to be working much better for our kind of business,” Williams wrote in an e-mail to customers.
“It’s been a stream of customers that have come in, lots of tears — it’s been an emotional day,” he said. “This is my baby. I opened it on a shoestring budget and have so many great customers over the years. ... We’ve been so lucky to be here for so long.”