Independent bookstores are experiencing a revival, Amazon’s opening new stores right and left, but Barnes & Noble’s stores have a less certain future.
In the past week we have learned of one store that is scheduled for closure in January, and another that only survived due to a letter writing campaign.
In response to the incredibly high price of rent in Silicon Valley, B&N is closing one of its stores in San Jose:
First, it was the Borders in Milpitas on Ginny Cox’s way home. Now her neighborhood Barnes & Noble is going out of business in San Jose’s Eastridge Mall.
What’s a local bibliophile like Cox to do?
“I’m devastated — books are my passion,’’ Cox said, standing beside a table piled with new titles, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s “The Book of Joe,’’ which is on her list.
“This is so convenient for me — it’s less than five miles from my house,’’ she explained sadly, as if watching a dream die.
The 27,700 square-foot Barnes & Noble store is closing its doors Jan. 11 after a going-out-of-business clearance sale that coincides with the holidays. It’s the latest casualty of the brick-and-mortar book store chain, joining Barnes & Nobles in Pleasant Hill, West San Jose and Fremont, among other Bay Area cities, in recent years. Ironically, a change.org online petition is now circulating to save the East San Jose behemoth bookseller.
This store is closing because there’s just no way it could be profitable enough to cover the cost of rent.
Real estate prices are ridiculous in San Jose, and the only B&N would have been able to survive in that area would be to buy their buildings 20 years ago. (Then again, if they had owned the buildings they would be wise to rent them to someone else at a higher price.)
In case you’re interested, the closing B&N store is about ten miles from an Amazon Books, on the other side of San Jose.
The pardoned store, on the other hand is located in Daytona Beach, FL, and the nearest planned Amazon Books is hundreds of miles away.
That store was “saved” by a PR stunt.
Shaina Belsky’s third-graders light up as they learn.
Until you threaten to take away their favorite bookstore.
“I was really sad and devastated,” third-grader Ben Upchurch said, recalling the moment he learned Daytona Beach’s Barnes & Noble was in danger of closing, with the store’s lease set to expire at the end of the year.
His classmates, gifted students at Tomoka Elementary School in Ormond Beach, felt the same way. But rather than continue to dwell on their dread of seeing a “closed” sign over the bookstore at 1900 W. International Speedway Blvd., the students put their own ink to paper in a personal letter to Barnes & Noble CEO Demos Parneros, who is based at the company’s New York City headquarters.
“We recently learned that Barnes & Noble had lost its lease on your Daytona Beach store,” the letter read in colorful penmanship on poster-sized paper. “We are very sorry to hear that and very upset that we won’t be able to visit and shop and browse and learn new things. Some of us love your sale items (using math). Some like to study there and also eat there. … Please don’t leave us without our favorite book store!”
The students, encouraged by Belsky, even suggested alternative sites in the area and invited Parneros to come check them out.
“P.S.,” the students added. “If you come, we will take you to the beach with us and teach you how to surf!”
Parneros and his team listened.
The reason I call this a stunt is that we only heard about the letter two months after B&N announced they were extending the lease for another year.
No one was writing about that letter in September, when it might have had an impact, and it wasn’t mentioned in October when the lease was extended. This is the kind of thing that would make for a great public interest story, and yet I can’t find any references more than a few days old.
I think everyone who has written about this story has been had.
image by brendancox