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As One B&N Store is Pardoned, Another Gets the Axe

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 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

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Carmen Webster Buxton December 11, 2017 um 12:16 pm

Sounds like those students got the store more of a stay of execution than a pardon. 🙂

Frank December 11, 2017 um 2:01 pm

While it is strange B&N is giving credit two months after the lease was extended but a B&N VP really did show up at the school to give a 25 dollar gift card to each child.

Nate, you made a typo in "buy a PR stunt." The word buy should be "by".

Tom S December 11, 2017 um 4:43 pm

It will be interesting to see how long the B & N just 1.5 miles down the street from the San Jose Amazon Books fares. Probably just until the lease expires. There is no foot traffic there, so you actually have to intend to go there. Nothing in Silicon Valley is a ‘short drive’ from anywhere. By contrast Amazon Books at Santana Row has a tiny footprint, lots of foot traffic with many nearby restaurants, a Cinemark theater. Rent is no doubt higher there on a per square foot basis, but they only need a couple of employees to run it and there’re self service kiosks for looking things up etc.

DaveMich December 11, 2017 um 5:57 pm

The kindle itself was developed a bit further away, at 129 labs, which has (and has had) locations in Palo Alto, Mountain view, and Cupertino, where development work is still ongoing. Nook had a very nice building in Palo Alto back when it was a thing.

The Ft. Lauderdale B&N was already on a year to year lease.

Also, note the lease extension article. It profiles a group of old guys who go to the B&N every day to sit and chat. It does not mention them ever buying any books.

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