Sunday, July 23, 2006

Decline and Fall of a Book Store

This is so so last, last month but I've just found it so here's the sad tale of the end of an independent bookstore. Here's the thing that made the shop good: enthusiastic and informed staff and a hands off owner.
The owner came by once a month to pick up the money and to sign the checks. Angela handled the finances, wrote the checks, and made sure the (financial) books were in order. Angela wasn't as big of a book person as Aaron and me, but she knew what books sold, what the neighborhood kids would be interested in, and she was a hell of a saleswoman. Aaron completely knew zines and the alternative press, and had a firm command of history texts and non-canonical literature (specifically, revolutionary writers and non-Western writers from the islands, Africa and India). Aaron also brought the store 'street cred' because of his writings and punk recordings. I knew books; I knew how to sell; and I knew what sold. We added shelves; reorganized the store, and turned it into a quirky place for political writings, zines, expensive graffiti books, and all things fringe (before us, the owner's boyfriend turned the store around; he started it on the path we followed). It worked.
And here's why it failed: the owner didn't didn't pay any bills. Owed money to small presses run by friends. Owed money to the Zapatistas. Finally lawyers and bailiffs caught up.

Here's the final web page of the shop. (Probably not safe for work but that depends where you work!)

Good independent bookshops are important to the intellectual and cultural life of any city. Good independent bookshops are going out of business at an ever increasing rate. What's that say about the cultural and intellectual life of cities?

No comments: