Borders in Village to Close

According to bankruptcy filings, the Grosse Pointe Borders is one of the Michigan stores to close.

The Village in Grosse Pointe will be losing one of its largest retailers: . The Ann Arbor based company announced a list of 200 closures throughout the country as part of its efforts to reorganize after filing for bankruptcy.

The Grosse Pointe store is one of four in Michigan that will close. The other locations are in Utica, Ann Arbor and Dearborn. The company operates 642 stores throughout the United States and Puerto Rico and employs 6,100 full-time employees and more than 11,000 part-time employees, according to the bankruptcy filing. 

Jeremy Fielding, a Borders spokesman, said Wednesday the goal is to have all of the stores on the list closed by the end of April. The stores that appear on the list were those that were underperforming, he said.

Fielding said it is too early to determine whether the company will try to transfer employees to locations that are remaining open. Employees at the store said Wednesday they've been directed to not speak to any media. 

Liquidation sales could begin as early as this weekend and will likely continue until the inventory is gone, at which time the stores will close up shop, siad Rosalind Thompson, a Borders senior vice president.

The store, which has been in the Village for about a decade, has been drawing less traffic than it did when it first opened, Village Association President Mike Kramer said.

Sad to lose it, Kramer said the association is just hopeful the large amount of space will allow for another significant retailer to move in. 

The bookstore had been active, supportive members of the Village Association until last year when the company's financial hardship stopped them from renewing their membership, Kramer said. 

"We never like to see any store leave," Kramer said. "It's one of the major retailers of the Village."

Despite Borders closing, the Village hasn't lost any other retailers in the last two years, which Kramer described as remarkable "given the economic difficulties in the last few years."

Borders moved in after Jacobson's moved its housewares division out of the building. The space Jacobson's use to occupy is now divided with Village Ace, Kramer said. 

Two Grosse Pointe residents shopping at the Grosse Pointe Borders Wednesday said the bookstore will be missed. 

Wallace Riley, 83, of the Farms, said he purchased a Mickey Mouse book for a 5-year-old girl who is at the hospital. He purchases many books at the local store but he said he also orders a great deal online when he isn't in need of having the book immediately.

In addition to buying gifts, if he's shopping for a book but doesn't know what he wants, he'll go to the store rather than looking online. That is part of the function of bookstores, is to be the local resource to find book advice, he said. Although he thinks Pointers will miss the local Borders, he questions the company's longterm viability even under a reorganization.

"It's not that Borders has changed," he said. "It's reading that has changed. It's going to be an uphill battle."

He is also concerned about what will occupy the space after Borders closes its doors. Grosse Pointe doesn't need another bank or realtors office, he said.

Lucretia Cracchiolo, of the Farms, was browsing the aisles Wednesday, said she was disappointed and surprised to hear about the closure. "It's always crowded," she said, noting she typically stops in once a week, sometimes more.

She often purchases items from the bookstore for her sons school projects, she said. Cracchiolo even has a reward system in place for her youngest son: every time he earns an A on his spelling tests, they come to Borders together where he gets to pick out a book. He will be disappointed, she said.

"What now we'll have to go to Mack?" she said questioningly.

Former Grosse Pointe Borders employee Patrick Flanagan, 26, a Pointer, said the struggle for the company really came when Kindle's were introduced. He left the store nearly two years ago but worked there for five years, beginning in 2004. He still keeps in touch with many of the current employees, he said.

The Grosse Pointe store also always struggled with trying to be a local boutique kind of bookstore rather than so corporate but with more struggle, the attitude became more corporate, he said. He loved working there and will miss the store, noting it had more character than most locations because many staff members live in the community and truly cared about the store.

"I think people will feel the loss. It seemed to tie the Village together," he said, listing off the many stores selling similar products that closed over the years before Borders moved in. The list included another chain bookstore and a music store. "Borders fit the empty space for books, music and cafe."

Another big issue at the Grosse Pointe store, he said, was the number of non-purchasing customers. Many people would come into the store, pick up a magazine, newspaper or book, read it in the cafe, sometimes even completing a crossword, and then leave without making a purchase. Sometimes some of these people were not even buying a cup of coffee from the cafe or they brought in coffee from neighboring businesses, he said.

 owner Ellen Durand said the community should feel confident despite the store closing because the three-block downtown business/shopping district survived the closure of Jacobson's. 

Durand said she is excited for the new community fitness/health building to be built this year by a partnership between and the . 

Manager Pete Dame said in a written statement Wednesday that while the city never likes to see a retailer leave, large openings don't come available that often and this could present a great opportunity for a different business. There are not many vacancies in the Village now and there have been substantial investments in the existing businesses as well as a new restaurant that is underway. 

The written statement also highlighted the Neighborhood Club/Beaumont Grosse Pointe partnership and soon-to-come building that is behind the Village. The 19,000 square-foot building is owned by a legal entity controlled by Borders. 

Chris February 16, 2011 at 11:44 PM
My understanding is that the decision by Borders is not necessarily final. I believe a bookstore is a very important investment for a community. If we could rally together, perhaps we could convince corporate headquarters to leave it open for another year to see if it can become profitable. If just three hundred residents agreed to visit the store twice as often and purchase something, it might be enough to double the store's revenue. I understand the appeal of Kindle, but there is nothing like the purchase of your first book to interest a child in a lifetime of reading. I have great respect for city government, but I respectfully disagree with the City Manager. With businesses contracting all over Michigan, I doubt that this space is a great opportunity. Look at all the space that is still available in the old Jacobson building. If we care enough, we could save this store. I'm willing to devote my time and energy to help save this store if others care enough to invest. If City government were willing to make a deal on the rental space, maybe Borders would stay. After all, city government built a new parking garage to secure Trader Joe's as a tenant. Do we care less about food for the brain?
Diane Landsiedel February 17, 2011 at 01:05 PM
I agree we should try to save this store, Christine. I think this is a huge blow to the community. Going to Border's brings my family to the Village on a regular basis. I'm seriously bummed by this. I always thought of Grosse Pointe as a neighborhood that valued books and learning. When Mitch Albom was at Border's for a book signing last Christmas, he commented that he used to come to the GP area a lot but he doesn't anymore because there's NOTHING to bring him here anymore. He said something like 'thank goodness you still have a Border's'. How sad that in one year's time, we've lost another reason for people like Mitch to visit us. I have already sent an email to the President of Border's with my appeal. I support Christine's suggestion to band together as a community to voice our discontent and try to save this store. Could the five Grosse Pointes offer an incentive to keep this Border's store open? It is a benefit to all GP residents.
Adam February 17, 2011 at 01:42 PM
This is truly sad for our community. During my high school years, our local Borders served as an important "third-space" for my friends and I, where we could both shop and socialize. The store opened our eyes to music, culture, and literature that we may have otherwise never been exposed to. Even with the advent of Amazon.com, iTunes and e-readers, nothing can replace the act of discovery that a bookstore offers to curious browsers. Perhaps it was an unexpected or frivolous purchase that introduced us to a new film director or now-favorite author. Certainly the internet allows for effective browsing as well, with references and recommendations galore; but, my hope was that this would not become a zero-sum game, because there's no substitute for the physical, social space Borders provided. In our youth, Borders kept us from loitering idly, as well as keeping us intellectually engaged. Starbucks is about to get a lot more crowded...
Diane Landsiedel February 17, 2011 at 02:04 PM
Well said, Adam. Your comment captures perfectly what our neighborhood stands to lose by literally closing these doors.
domo domo February 17, 2011 at 07:52 PM
This is very bad news for Grosse Pointe, taking it another step towards becoming another Indian Village. Two years ago we came to Michigan and GP because of the village and specially the ability to walk to the bookstore. In researching GP, I read about the bookstore on city data and actually saw it using Google Earth. It was the city park and Borders that stopped us from choosing Birmingham. The above poster is correct, that is a unique space, I can't imagine who is going to want to fill it.
Sara Eaton Martin (Editor) February 17, 2011 at 09:52 PM
A Pointer set up an online petition to gather e-signatures from residents who want to see the book store stay. The plan is to send the petition to the company to plead for reconsideration about the Grosse Pointe location. Check it out: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savebordersgp/
John F Martin February 18, 2011 at 04:27 AM
It'd be great if people got this upset about all the small businesses that close all the time. Yes, it stinks we are losing our only bookstore, but it's not like Borders was a great corporate citizen. They weren't a member of the Village Association or the Chamber and I cannot ever recall them sponsoring a single event in the city. In fact, they stole a lot of business from several locally-owned shops in the Village. I bet Village Toy and Cavanaughs, for example, will see a nice jump in business. And those dollars stay here.
Chris February 18, 2011 at 07:47 AM
John, Why would you assume that we do not care about other small businesses? Probably most of us deliberately purchase locally to support the GP community. Borders was a member of the Village Association until recently when corporate losses became too draining. If we can make a difference and save this bookstore, why wouldn't you want to participate in that effort? I think your conjecture about Borders stealing business from other stores is probably incorrect, but more importantly, it seems such a negative spin. The merchandise of all three stores, where I shop, is quite distinct. I doubt that Borders stole business from those other stores; it probably generated business by drawing neighbors to the area to shop. I for one will come to the Village less often without the anchor bookstore. But the demise of Borders is a more compelling symbol to those of us who are over fifty. It is clearly indicative of the eventual loss of all brick and mortar bookstores, which will ultimately lead to a decline in e-books and publishers. I'm not opposed to Kindle or IPAD, but a world where real bookstores coexist with electronic devices seems preferable.
John F Martin February 18, 2011 at 05:15 PM
I just hope the energy that is going into the futile petition and saving of this store is still there when the rest of the mom-and-pop shops are pushed out by the big chains. Where are the petitions to save the little guy when their business is taken away and the landlords and banks move in to shred their livelihoods? My dream would be to see a smaller independent book shop take over a piece of that land along with other smaller, mom-and-pop shops that are unique to the area. That's what draws me to small towns to spend money, not big chains. Leave the toys to Ellen, the stationary and cards to Connie, the newspapers and magazines to Notre Dame, etc. . . You know for every $100 that is spent in a big box store like Borders, only $15 remains in the community? For that same $100 spent at a locally owned and operated store, $45 or more stays in the community.
Adam February 18, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Hi John. My hope is that the petition will raise awareness with the Village Association and Grosse Pointe residents of the importance of a bookstore and "third space" in our downtown shopping district. I'm not so naïve to think that Borders will reverse their decision due to a few hundred electronic signatures (although one can hope), but petitions can serve a purpose beyond their most direct objective. I would certainly not oppose a locally owned book shop, especially one that maintained a cafe, or "mom-and-pop" boutiques taking over that space. If that was the clear alternative, I might not be fretting so; however, what I've seen dominating commercial real estate in Grosse Pointe is banks, wireless communications storefronts, and mature women's clothing stores -- or worse, nothing at all (Hicky's Walton Pierce remains empty). I'll take a "corporate" (reminder: still Michigan based) bookstore and cafe over those options any day of the week.
Chris February 19, 2011 at 04:18 PM
I agree with Adam, and I appreciate the valiant effort of all who posted to this forum or signed the electronic petition. Kudos to City Manager, Peter Dame, who intervened on behalf of Grosse Pointe residents only to discover that , "Borders will not reconsider . . . In fact, the list of store closings will get bigger. The 'not final' notion of the initial list of closures was because Borders could not legally declare closures final until the Court acted. " So is it possible to find another bookstore as a tenant? As John indicated, the ideal is a locally owned book shop similar to the original Borders in Ann Arbor. Unfortunately, we need a dedicated millionaire to resurrect the independent bookstore as Gretchen Carhartt Valade has saved jazz with the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe. Perhaps our petition will at least assure a potential bookstore owner of community interest and support. I'd like to personally thank the individual who started the ipetition. For those who love browsing in bookstores, the future does not look bright. More than 1,000 bookstores closed from 2000 through 2007, leaving about 10,600 (source: Latest federal statistics) The transformation to digital will be "a huge blow to book discovery" (Kassia) according to experts in the field. For more interesting statistics and information, check out http://www.ecolibris.net/bookstores_future.asp In the meantime, maybe I'll see you at Borders' final inventory sale. Thanks for fighting the good fight.
Diane Landsiedel February 20, 2011 at 01:38 AM
Thanks for the update, Christine, although the news is very disappointing to be sure. There are simply some things that are worth trying to save. While the decision to close the Borders store in the Village seems to be final, I will take heart that I live in a community where there are people who are mindfully and actively engaged in trying to preserve and improve the quality of life in the Grosse Pointes. If nothing more can be done to keep Borders, at least, it is clear that its closure has hit a nerve.


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