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Monday, November 28, 2016

When A Bookstore Rises From The Ashes, We All Celebrate



When I first moved to New Rochelle, a small city 30 minutes north of Manhattan, in the Fall of 2003, I was optimistic that it was a good landing place to eventually raise children.  One of the many things that factored in the decision was that I would be near several bookstores.  15 minutes away was a Barnes & Noble on the border of where the Bronx meets Westchester.  Even closer, was a Borders in nearby Eastchester.  There was also an old independent store in neighboring Larchmont, a mile from my house.

But the literary landscape looks a lot different now.

The Bronx B&N is closing and will leave nearly 1.5 million without a community bookstore.

The Borders closed up four or five years ago.

But Anderson’s Book Shop is still kicking in Larchmont and seven years ago another indie opened up in Larchmont, catering to children’s books, The Voracious Reader.

And now, I’m proud to say, there’s a new Barnes & Noble housed in the exact space the Borders used to be in.  I’m sitting in it right now, on the eve of Thanksgiving.  It is a thankful moment, indeed.

A generation ago some people complained that huge chains, like Borders, Barnes & Noble, Walden Books, and Books a Million.  The indies are now rising.  You also have a significant portion of book sales coming online, via e-books, print-on-demand, and of course, Amazon.

It’s a new marketplace out there.

But I can’t explain the joy I feel sitting here.  It’s the same feeling I get when I hear an old theater that was renovated is re-opening.  It’s as if something had died, but now comes renewal and hope.  Imagine a town that was hit by a nuclear radiation leak, left abandoned for decades until one day the ground is no longer contaminated and the land starts to again yield trees, crops, and life.  A bookstore grows where once stood a literary graveyard.

Why the drama and romance from me?  Because I know just how important bookstores are to our cultural ecosystem.   They bring people together like few places can.  Young and old, big and small, black and white – it all converges in a communal, nurturing environment, a safe space that fosters the development of our souls.

We can only be a product of our experiences, knowledge, human interactions, and connections.  The bookstore affords a rich opportunity to explore ideas information, images, and facts in a way we otherwise wouldn’t.

There’s order to it – lined shelves of current books by genre, format or popularity.  But there’s also choice and randomness at play for the curious, wandering browser.  It’s a scene that gets redrawn daily, with new books pouring in on a regular basis.

It’s peaceful here.  There’s a self-fulfilling prophecy going on.  Everyone who decided to walk through these doors is a pursuer of knowledge.  They are on a journey and welcome the words and sounds and pictures that could shape and reshape their lives.

Okay, okay I know this mental masturbation sounds silly, but imagine how you feel when you go somewhere and instantly feel at home, like you belong, as if you were always there? This is my island, my respite from the harsh realities of an imperfect world.  This is where words matter, where they get to live and breathe.

My hope is that this store makes it and that the existing independent stores stick around.  There soon will be another Barnes & Noble, coming to New Rochelle.  It’ll be the campus bookstores for Monroe College, but it will also be open to the public. I think it will be a small store, but nevertheless, tally another bookstore for humanity.  I can’t wait to visit that one, too.

The financial key to the Eastchester Barnes and Noble will be its cafĂ©.  It’s a big one and it sells more than coffee and cake.  It has some real food, which looks pricey.  The brisket burger is 15 bucks.  Soup is $9.  But the real kicker is the wine menu.  One bottle -- Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Napa Valley -- goes for $78.  A glass of Pinot Noir goes for $16.  They sell beer, too.

I thought I’d get drunk on books, but for some, this could be a bar hangout that happens to have books. If that’s what helps the bookstore succeed, I’ll take it.

This holiday season the gift of a new bookstore is wonderful.  Go support your local bookstores and savor them.  Don’t take them for granted.  Cherish the opportunity, to not only consume books, but to do so in the holy environment of a bookstore. 

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.
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