A bookstore can be many things: it can be a section in a big box store; it can be a huge commercial enterprise, with many products that are not books or accessories, products that include toys or games or magazines or a coffee bar or puzzles or anything else that’s profitable. I’m speaking of local independent bookstores, not big box, not chains, not non-book stores that stock a shelf or two.
An independent bookstore is a local community treasure. Now, I use the word “treasure” guardedly, because that sounds so trite and well, odd… Nevertheless, it’s true. Indies are there for the people, not the corporation; indies are there for the community, not for some faceless CEO.
What, your town doesn’t have a bookstore? Are you sure? All on the Same Page has been in business for 18 months, and we still have people walk in who say they didn’t know we were here. And, too, we have people who come in and quickly walk a big circle around the perimeter only to say, “I’ll be back.” Some do, some don’t. Unfortunately, “coming back” doesn’t pay the bills.
It’s a tough time for everyone, but bookstores seem to be particularly hard hit. Folks can manage to get a gourmet coffee but draw the line at a $3 book. A lot of people talk about “supporting local business,” but most seem to opt for the “good deal,” like buying from Amazon. I’m about 99 percent sure that Jeff Bezos needs your ten bucks a lot less than your neighborhood bookseller does. When bookstores take a hit, it seems to come from all directions at once: taxes, regulations, loss of lease, low customer turnout, and so forth.
(Lest anyone thinks I’m whining about customers, let me assure you that we have some GREAT ones! They come in frequently, they chat, they browse, they order, they purchase – and they recommend us. And this happens a lot! When I say we’re hard hit, I mean that we need a lot more of THESE customers and maybe fewer look-see-leaves, ya know?)
And you’ve all seen the meme making the rounds: when you support a local business, you aren’t helping a CEO buy a second or third vacation home, you’re helping the proprietors pay for their kids’ education, or their mortgages, or their bills in general. And of course, you’re helping that local business – BOOKSTORE – to STAY in business!
The St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance is a loose organization of local St. Louis bookstores; I could name them all, but if you click on that link you can find them – and I’d hate to inadvertently leave out anyone… We’re a great mix of styles, too, we all have a different look, a different feel, a different focus.
And if you pick on one of us, you’ve taken on the entire Alliance.
Yes, folks, I’m talking about The Book House. The Book House is located on Manchester Road, in Rock Hill, Missouri. It lives in a 150-year-old Victorian home, and it’s been there for 30 years. An absolute booklover’s paradise, it’s crammed full of ALL THE BOOKS! New, used, rare – they have it, and they know exactly where to pull it from the shelf.
But you know what? The city doesn’t seem to care about any of that – the history OR the books. Or the booksellers. Seems the city has decided that it’s okay for an OUT OF STATE developer to buy the property – which The Book House has been negotiating to purchase for years – and to tear it down, replacing it with a storage facility. Yep, you heard that right. Rock Hill doesn’t care for history. Or books. Just more ugly profit.
Nothing wrong with profit; we’d all like to have it. But do booksellers and book lovers understand the balance between profit and doing what’s right? YES! Does Rock Hill? It doesn’t seem that way. Ditto for that developer – bottom line, always, right? And ruin history – and books – for a small community three states away. Nice.
It ain’t over till it’s over! Here’s what YOU can do:
First, go to Change.org and sign the petition – it’ll go to the mayor of Rock Hill as well as the Community Development Commission.
Second, call these people and voice your complaints:
Call Rock Hill City Hall (314) 968-1410
Call the developer Bill Bowman at Great Northern Developers 586-703-9882 or 734-996-9979
Call the media – Kirkwood-Webster Times, Riverfront Times, Post-Dispatch, TV stations, radio stations, your local Patch, etc.
And third, come to the meeting at Rock Hill City Hall on May 8, 7:00 p.m. to join the rest of us!