Borders' area demise greeted with mixed feelings

SPECTRUM/The Book Nook on Bank Street in New Miford is one of several independent book stories in the Greater New Milford area. March 1, 2011
SPECTRUM/The Book Nook on Bank Street in New Miford is one of several independent book stories in the Greater New Milford area. March 1, 2011Norm Cummings

Area independent book sellers took notice recently when Borders Books & Music filed for bankruptcy.

Borders announced Feb. 16 it will close 200 stores nationwide -- nearly a third of its locations. Among those are the Danbury and Southbury locations.

"I don't think it's a good thing any time a brick-and-mortar store closes," said Fran Keilty, owner of The Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot.

"Books are something universally appreciated," she added. "This takes away an opportunity for people to see them, handle them, browse through them and then buy them."

Fifteen years ago, Borders superstores seemed to be the future of book selling. Their comfortable chairs, cafes and widespread discounts marked a "bigger is better" retail philosophy that closed many mom-and-pop bookstores.

Short-sightedness about changing Internet technology and customers' buying habits are now being attributed by many in the industry to have caused Borders demise, according to the Associated Press.

In business for more than 55 years in her Washington location, Ms. Keilty still believes independents will continue to be around "for years to come" -- despite Internet book sales and e-book popularity.

The Hickory Stick now offers both options through its website.

In New Milford, the Bank Street Book Nook also now offers website-based, e-book sales.

Book Nook owner Janet Olsen Ryan said her store has enjoyed a loyal customer base since she purchased it in 2007. She attributes this to personalized service, "the hallmark of independents."

"I do know that there are local people who shop at big chain stores," Ms. Ryan said. "I'm optimistic this will bring them back to supporting their local bookstores. However, the closing of Border's stores is sad for the industry."

In Kent, Jim Blackketter, who bought The House of Books in 1991, noted independents have responded to market changes by "being better stores."

Offering a comfortable environment, personalized service and expanding his offerings of books and book related items, has kept the House of Books viable, he said.

Mr. Blackketter is also "sad to see any bookstores closing." However, noting independents are "under pressure with e-book sales," he is "not discouraged about the future."

"We're blessed here in Kent with a literate community that gives us lots of support," Mr. Blackketter said. "Perhaps we'll see a slight increase in sales (with Borders store closings), but our market has always been stable."