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article imageArea Borders is bust, but locally owned bookstores endure Special

By Kay Mathews     Feb 22, 2011 in Business
Borders is closing one-third of its stores, including a superstore in Rogers, Arkansas. But there are independent bookstores in the area that were here before it opened and store owners plan to be selling books long after Borders shutters its doors.
There were reports on Feb. 13 that Borders would file for bankruptcy protection the following week. The predictions were accurate and the bankruptcy filing occurred on Feb. 16.
“Bookseller Borders, which helped pioneer superstores that put countless mom-and-pop bookshops out of business, filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday, sunk by crushing debt and sluggishness in adapting to a rapidly changing industry” NWAonline reported [subscription required]. “According to bankruptcy notes, the Borders store at 2203 South 45th Street in Rogers will be closed. No other Arkansas stores were mentioned.”
Borders bookstore.  Rogers  Ark.  Feb. 20  2011
Borders bookstore. Rogers, Ark. Feb. 20, 2011
Mary Davis, a Borders spokeswoman, was quoted in NWAonline as saying, “The 40-year-old company plans to close about 200 of its 642 stores over the next few weeks. All of the stores closed will be superstores."
The Borders superstore in Arkansas that will be closed is located in the Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall in Rogers. The mall, including the Borders store, opened in October of 2006.
Now, less than five years later, the doors of that bookstore will close soon. But, in Northwest Arkansas there are a number of locally owned and operated book stores that were not put out of business by Borders. One, in fact, was established long before Borders came to the area.
Dickson Street Bookshop has been "connecting customers with books for over 30 years."
As the name suggests, Dickson Street Bookshop is located on Dickson Street in Fayetteville, Ark. The store has aisle after aisle of books stocked on shelves reaching from floor to high ceiling. Dickson Street Bookshop describes itself as "a general and out-of-print bookshop specializing in Literature, Poetry, Irish Studies, and Americana."
I asked owner Don Choffel exactly how long the store had been in business. He clarified that he co-owns the store with Charles O'Donnell and said that they had opened in 1978 across the street from the current location. Tongue-in-cheek Choffel said, "We've been business partners longer than most marriages last."
Don Choffel  co-owner of Dickson Street Bookshop  in the new area of the store. Fayetteville  Ark. F...
Don Choffel, co-owner of Dickson Street Bookshop, in the new area of the store. Fayetteville, Ark. Feb. 18, 2010
Choffel agreed to show me around the large store and the first place we went was to a new, expanded area. It seemed to be the only place that had room for more books.
Choffel emphasized that the books are well-organized and categorized so that customers can easily find what they are looking for.
It seemed that Choffel was less concerned with the closing of Borders than he was about the rise of e-books, noting that it was "too soon to tell" what impact they would have on his business.
This post on Dickson Street Bookshop's Facebook page makes clear the stores stance on the relationship between books on technological devices and hard-copies. It read:
A nice young man just came in. He was holding a Kindle. "I have decided to come in and buy at least a book a week as my duty to humanity," he said. This made me smile. Thanks to all our loyal, eclectic and wonderful customers. You make us what we are. (You don't have to feel guilty for owning a Kindle. Just don't neglect the book!)
Just up the street from Dickson Street Bookshop is Nightbird Books, also located in the heart of Fayetteville’s downtown shopping district on Dickson Street.
At Nightbird Books shoppers will find fiction, non-fiction, and children’s titles in stock, as well as a small selection of stationary, cards, and toys.
The owner of the store, Lisa Sharp, told me that she opened the store five years ago. Sharp described a business philosophy in which she and all of the Nightbird Books employees really got to know their customers' tastes in books. When a book comes in that they think will be of interest to a particular customer, they will "contact them and let them know."
Lisa Sharp  owner of Nightbird Books.  Fayetteville  Ark.  Feb. 18  2010
Lisa Sharp, owner of Nightbird Books. Fayetteville, Ark. Feb. 18, 2010
Sharp told me about the book clubs hosted by her store. There is the Date Night Book Club, where "couples" by any definition of the word will get a coupon to the 36 Club for attending the book event, the SciFi Book Club, and the Mystery Book Club.
Nightbird Books also hosts “Local Author Spotlight” events. Nightbird Books states, "We feel strongly about providing local authors a venue for promoting their work.”
One of the newcomers to the bookselling business in Northwest Arkansas is Trolley Line Bookshop located in historic downtown Rogers, Ark. Trolley Line Bookshop specializes in Arkansas fiction and non-fiction, Americana, Mysteries, Political Science, Childrens, Regional Materials, and Southern Authors.
The owner, Myra Moran, and her husband Pat Moran, a semi-retired attorney, said that they had opened the store on West Walnut Street "about a year and a half ago." The Morans, whom I have known for some time, reminded me that Myra has been in the book-dealing business for many years.
Myra first opened Trolley Line Books in 1985 as a retail shop on the old streetcar line in midtown Little Rock, Ark. Her experience in the business strengthens her conviction that Trolley Line Bookshop in Rogers will succeed. But, success for Myra and Pat is defined as doing something they enjoy that pays the bills.
Pat and Myra Moran  owners of Trolley Line Bookshop.  Rogers  Ark.  Feb. 18  2011
Pat and Myra Moran, owners of Trolley Line Bookshop. Rogers, Ark. Feb. 18, 2011
The Morans operate mostly an out of print old bookshop but, as Pat told me, "we do stock and try to promote local authors who write new books by offering to have them do book signings at our shop on weekends."
Myra said that about half of their business is walk-in customers and the other half is from their online sales. Pat explained, "We sell our inventory online and receive orders for old books that come to us through the Barnes & Noble and Amazon networks as well as through Advanced Book Exchange and Alibris listings services. Even the new booksellers like to link up with us out of print people because their customers ask them to help find scarce out of print books."
According to Myra, even though the store has been open for over a year, "we often have people come in who say 'I didn't know you were here.'" The Morans are in the process of getting the word out about Trolley Line Bookshop, and Myra notes that growth and success has a lot to do with "the personality of the owner" and his or her efforts to make their bookstore a "cozy" place that customers want to come to.
Customers read children s books at Trolley Line Bookshop.  Rogers  Ark.  Feb. 18  2011
Customers read children's books at Trolley Line Bookshop. Rogers, Ark. Feb. 18, 2011
One of the most interesting findings to come out of these interviews is that the local bookstore owners collaborate, rather than compete, with each other. Without prompting, each of the owners mentioned the other independent bookstores nearby.
Myra Moran, for example, told me about the Friendly Bookstore, which is "an all-volunteer operation of the Friends of the Rogers Library." Proceeds from the sale of used books and bargain-priced magazines are donated as grants to the library. Similarly, the owners of Dickson Street Bookshop and Nightbird Books encouraged me to visit the other's store.
Myra gave this example to illustrate why there is not a need to consider other independent bookstores as competitors. "If there were four antique stores side-by-side," she said, "they really would not be competing because each has its own, unique items to sell."
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