Borders

I have been so disappointed the last couple of days regarding the death of Borders. I went on Monday with the girls, as I had said in my previous post. We browsed the Bargain Section, looked the kids section, got lunch – a personally blended chai tea for the girls, ice coffee for myself and a sandwich and lemon bar because Neeners said she was hungry. The barista told me that he had just marked all the Seattle’s Best products down to 75% off, including those chocolate covered graham crackers I have always wanted to try, the short bread cookies, the mints, the gum, the toffee and the coffee was buy one get one free, as were a few other miscellaneous. I bought a lot of it, and a new insulated cup. I asked him why it was marked down to clearance and he said that they were not working with Seattle’s Best and would instead be switching to their own Border’s Cafe Brand. He apologized profusely for not having full coffee store stock and that they were in transition but, he smiled, “Next week we will have all new pastries and supplies again.”

Later that night I saw a post on Facebook saying good bye to Borders. I commented and said I had just been there today and that they were only dumping Seattle’s Best, but then another person commented with a link to The Wallstreet Journal – Bookstore Chain Borders is Dead. I read it and the news started to sink in. There would be no new pastry line, but what’s more there would be no more bookstore. Liquidation starts tomorrow on Friday and the store will gone by the end of September. Kaput. Done.

I have been struggling to decipher why I have been so hurt and saddened by this news the last couple of days. Borders has always been of my favorite places to go. I went there when I was single and walked among the aisles, fingering books I would like to read, picking out books I had come to get, cracking them open and inhaling the sweet smell of paper and glue. I went there as a date destination with Tim, listening to music, talking about books, sitting in chairs and watching other book lovers go about their business. But what I think really makes it hard for me, is that in the last couple of years I went there as an escape. It was one of the few places I could take an infant, or small children in the middle of a long dark winter to get a cup of coffee and a treat, set the kids down in the bucket seat or set loose to crawl or toddle on the carpet in the well stocked children’s section. I could go there and for a little while, feel like an adult again. I could sip hot coffee and browse without fear that I was getting in anyone’s way, or that the kids were bothering other patrons. I could sit in on story time and connect with other parents hiding out at our secret refuge.

This morning I went garage sale shopping with Lowen and Soren. We only found one place in Sun Prairie and on our way back Morella had to pee and Soren was hungry. So I stopped at Babies R Us for their nursing room and bathroom, and then told Lowen I was heading over to Borders with the girls. I walked over and noticed that the parking lot was a little fuller than normal, and that there were more people bustling around inside. Still, it was homey, calm, smelled terrific and cool. The girls immediately knew where to go and headed off to their favorite aisle in the children’s section. I followed, not needing to worry about them and looked around at the store trying to take it all in one last time. While I was looking over Morella’s shoulder at the sticker books she wanted, and Neeners was off investigating the stuffies and bead/wire toys I said outloud “Oh I am going to miss this place.”

A woman was standing near by looking around at books and immediately said “I know. It’s just heartbreaking.”
“Tell me about,” I replied. “I just can’t believe it is happening. I love this store.”
“This is one of the places that you can take kids and have them be in another aisle and not worry about their safety. I bet if they sold smut they wouldn’t be going out of business.”
I nodded and said “Yeah, the kids love this place and it is so safe and welcoming.”

Then she went on to tell me that she has a cognitively disabled 49 year old and she asked me where she was going to take them after it was gone. I just answered that there were so few places such as this and it was going to be sorely missed. She wandered off, hunched and crossing her arms. She was just looking at things, I think, saying good bye, just the same as me. The girls have no clue. They probably won’t really miss Borders. One day Morella might ask if we can go and get more sticker or My Little Pony books and I will have to take her to Barnes and Nobles. Sure they have a train table, but they are also in the mall and I don’t let them wander far. The aisles there are closely packed, the patrons seem a bit snootier and unfriendly towards children, even in the children’s section, and their prices were always higher than Borders.

I know, I can buy the same books at at cheaper price online. But can I take my kids online? Can I leave the house when it is below zero to browse an online store, get a cup of coffee and feel like an adult? Can I touch, hold and look at the books to make sure it is something that I would want to buy or better yet, see something that I never thought to look for? Can we have lunch afterward and play with our new books, toys and whatnot sitting around a small cafe table and make it feel like a fancy tea party?

I bought a couple of sticker books, a pony book and a new journal for myself. I asked the clerk about it and he replied “We had an idea something was going to happen when the CEO’s and upper management take a couple million for bonus’s.” I replied “Well I had no idea, and I am sad about it.” He said that a lot of people felt that way. I asked him when the sales started and he replied ‘The liquidators come Friday.”

Awhile later I mentioned this to Lowen and she recalled a story on This American Life about liquidators and how it isn’t a good idea to go right away because it isn’t actually cheaper. I looked it up when I got home and found Scenes from a Recession, in particular act three: Short-Circuit City. Funnily enough, I remember actually hearing this on air and was interested because of Act 1 discussing the condo market in Chicago. They were talking about the condos in Roger’s Park area where we had lived and saw them being built. We had even contemplated at the time whether or not we should buy one or move back to Wisconsin. After listening to that partial broadcast we congratulated ourselves on our move to Wisconsin. But I don’t think we had heard the entire broadcast when it got to Circuit City. I listened it to it tonight while waiting for Neeners to go to sleep, and Lowen is right. This is exactly like Circuit City and there is no real point in going to Borders again until the final days.

But you know, as much of a bargain hunter as I am, I don’t know if I will go back. I was there on the last day of normal and going back to see what it will fall too might just be too sad. Well, on second thought maybe I will go back without the girls. I don’t want them to ever see what happened to it. I want them to remember Borders when it was a wondrous, warm enchanting store full of possibilities and high tea.

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