Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Farewell To The BooksMusicCafe

I’m not sure exactly how it came to pass that I became more of a Borders-person than a Barnes&Noble-person, but so it was for many years. It might be explained by something as simple as the fact that I spent huge chunks of my post-collegiate life within a shorter driving distance of a Borders than a B&N. (In fact, early in our cohabitation and pre-child marriage, my wife and I would frequently look forward to date nights that took place entirely within the confines of a strip mall that had both a Chipotle and a Borders and was only five minutes from our house.) A somewhat reverential pilgrimage to the original Borders in Ann Arbor a few years ago may have sealed the deal, too, but it was pretty far along by then already.

Whatever the root cause of my allegiance, it did mean that I was somewhat saddened when it was announced this year that Borders was going out of business and liquidating all of its remaining locations. Not terribly saddened, because times are tough all over and it’s hard to muster tons of sympathy for a corporate entity when flesh-and-blood human beings are also suffering economic calamities, and because I never had anything against B&N per se and it still exists (as does Amazon.com, as do small indie book stores, as does freaking Target which, incidentally, was the only place I could find a copy of the seventh Harry Potter book on release day after trying both the Borders five minutes from my house AND the B&N fifteen minutes in the opposite direction. So.) But somewhat saddened, a little bit.

And that amount of sentiment, of course, was not enough to trump my instinctive acquisitiveness which was aroused by the prospect of getting new books cheap. I kept thinking to myself that I needed to swing by the local Borders (not the old date-night Borders, obviously, as we’ve moved house since then) to scope out the going out of business sale, and I kept not getting around to it, because it’s way the heck out by the interstate. I used to drive more or less past it every day when I was commuting to and from the Metro on 66, but now that I take the VRE from Old Town I can go weeks or months without ever seeing that end of town.

Until last Friday, that is. You may or may not have noticed that I failed to blog last Friday, and as is often the case the underlying reason was that I was not in the office terribly long that day. As a very rainy week drew to a close, a week during which I found the VRE crowded to its SRO limits most evenings and slowed down due to flash-flood conditions besides, I heard on the radio as soon as I left the house that the VRE wouldn’t be running at all. So, I turned my car around and headed for the highway and the Metro. It was every bit as terrible as I remembered, but luckily no moreso. Once I got to work I told everyone I would be leaving early because I had to fight Friday traffic in the rain to get to my kids’ daycare on time. And then a funny thing happened: the rain really wasn’t that bad on Friday, and I did leave as early as I had planned but by the time I was westbound on the highway in the afternoon I was making extraordinarily good time. So I decided I could spare a few minutes to stop by Borders.

As always, not really mine, just a suitable image found online.
I half expected to get to the parking lot and see the building totally stripped inside and out, but as it turned out I hadn’t missed the liquidation sale entirely. 8 DAYS LEFTthe big signs in the window said (so it would be down to 4 as of today) which had me feeling pretty lucky to be cutting it so close.

Of course given how nigh the end in fact was, the interior was pretty picked over. They were already selling off shelving as fast as they could empty it of stock. The book sections were marked with hand-lettered signs (complete with misspellings, like a whole row of shelves labeled as “Bargin Books” YES SERIOUSLY) which clearly were re-made just about every day as they consolidated down to smaller and smaller sections. I cruised through the aisles pretty quickly, and a few books jumped out at me as mid-level titles on my Wish List which I couldn’t resist at 70% or 80% off; I ended up snagging five of them. (And just in case you are the kind of person who would be inclined to buy me presents by consulting my Wish List, never fear – I deleted those purchases from the Wish List as soon as I got home.)

I was, upon reflection, glad that I didn’t have time to dally longer (since I still needed to get clear across town to pick up the kids at what would end up being only slightly earlier than usual) because my tight schedule didn’t give me the luxury of hanging around sighing over how low Borders had fallen and how distressingly grim it looked in its final days. It also probably prevented me from snagging another ten or fifteen books, a double-sided bookshelf I would have no way of getting home and no room for at home, and a case of stainless steel coffee carafes. But I was glad I had made the trek over there, for no other reason than to say goodbye.

1 comment:

  1. The original Borders in Ann Arbor moved in the late nineties. It used to be at the intersection of State & Liberty (symbolism!), then moved a block away. The original site is now an Urban Outfitters, I think.

    Growing up in Ann Arbor, Borders felt to me like a preview of Nerd Valhalla. When K-Mart bought it around 1990 or so and franchised it, I was horrified they'd screw it up. They did, kinda -- the original was all books, nothing else -- but the satellite Borders were all equally Nerd Valhallic. Which is now a word, thank you very much.

    Ann Arbor was and probably is jammed with used book stores, too. Great for a fourteen year old with a thick nerd streak and badly limited funds. I can still smell the stacks at David's Books, the second-floor used book hovel across the street from Borders...

    I hit the Borders closest to me last weekend. The shelves had been annihilated. However, a few sections remained fairly intact. Biographies were in healthy supply, for example, and computer books weren't running short either. And then there were two specific books that they had drastically overestimated demand for, and had in giant stacks: "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," and whatever Sarah Palin's latest book is. Big stacks of those left. By the end, they were probably offering those free with any purchase.

    Ah, Borders, I will miss you.

    Powell's House of Books in Portland, Oregon -- don't ever get bought or franchised. Look at what happened to your Michigan cousin. Seriously. Don't do it.