By now, you all have heard about the situation facing The Book House: eviction, closure, moving. If you haven’t, here’s a recap:
We first heard that an out-of-state developer was purchasing the property and planning to put in a new storage facility; this would mean The Book House would be torn down and would be forced to close or move. As it turned out, the sale had not gone through – it was supposed to close last week.
A petition was launched to try to save this iconic bookstore, and the building in which it’s housed, an historic 150-year-old Victorian home. To date, there are over 1500 signatures.
This won’t stop any action on the part of the developer, the seller, or the city, but it does show Rock Hill how we all feel about this potential disaster: every time someone signs the petition, the mayor, the aldermen, the city administrator, and the developer receive an email.
It might be working. The developer, Bill Bowman of Great Northern out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has reportedly backed out of the sale. He was also quoted as saying that he didn’t want to see The Book House go out of business and that his company could help move the store and/or the house itself.
In the meantime, the seller, Rex Stahl of Moscow Mills, has served The Book House with a 90-day eviction notice, effective the end of July. We can assume that this has to do with the possible hold up of the sale, although Mr. Stahl has the property listed as 2-3 parcels; the one on which The Book House sits is one of them, asking price $300K. All parcels together, nearly the entire block, are listed at $990K.
Let’s talk about Mr. Stahl for a moment. He inherited the property from his mother. He has done no basic maintenance on The Book House for years. When the sewer backed up, he sent someone to fix it who then presented owner Michelle Barron with the bill. When the radiator broke, Michelle had to pay $750 to repair it. Ditto for when part of the ceiling fell in some years ago.
Michelle did try to negotiate a lease/purchase, but Mr. Stahl refused to do any repairs to bring the building up to code, required on a property transfer, and wanted her to also pay all property taxes during the term of that lease/purchase.
Now, there’s an Indiegogo campaign listed, to either help The Book House move to a new location or to help purchase the property on which it sits. Either/or, depending of course on how much is raised. But move to where?
My suggestion is anywhere but the city of Rock Hill.
According to a source, three years ago, Rock Hill had a chance to put in a historic corridor – I understand St. Louis County was even footing part of the bill. It was turned down. Just ONE year ago, Rock Hill came up with a Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan, part of which says:
“Rock Hill has also been successful in attracting and retaining locally- and regionally significant businesses, including Schiller’s Camera and Video, The Book House, RSI Kitchen and Bath, Farotto’s Restaurant, the Train Wreck Saloon, and Hacienda Mexican Restaurant. These businesses are regional institutions and contribute to the local flavor of Rock Hill’s business district.”
How about that? Yet, in this situation, and even though Rock Hill must approve a special use permit for this storage facility, they claim their hands are tied. And get this: Michelle used to sit on Rock Hill’s Historic Preservation Commission, but she said that a few months ago the mayor removed her from that board. Furthermore, the city of Rock Hill has ALREADY designated The Book House as “historic.”
Last, but not least – tomorrow night, Tuesday, May 7, at 6:00 p.m. there is a rally at The Book House. We’ll cover any new updates, let you know how you can help, and show our support of books and reading. Be there!
And you can keep up-to-date here, in the Facebook group “Save The Book House.”