Yeah, I’m all about alliteration. Heh. See how I did that?
Last night, we held a rally for The Book House. The purpose was to raise awareness of the situation itself, the possible shuttering of yet another indie bookstore in the area, and to talk, discuss, and network potential solutions. I didn’t do a head count, but Michelle said she estimated about 30 in the crowd. Channel Five showed up too – you can see the footage here.
We handed out fliers and stood out by Manchester Road, waving signs and jumping up and down. I felt kinda silly, but hey – we had a lot of horn honking and smiles and waves! Folks from Illinois came over the river to support The Book House, and a mom brought her two kids who’d made a sign. She said they were crushed when they heard the store might close, and wanted to be at the rally too.
So here’s the recap:
The property owner has the lot on which The Book House sits, as well as the building, up for sale – either as one small parcel or as nearly the entire block. It’s listed at $300K and $990K, respectively, and the potential buyer, Great Northern, has yet to close on the parcel. At the same time, developer Bill Bowman has stated that he’d like to help Michelle by moving the building and/or her business. Thus far, there has been no formal agreement or contract.
Several of the Rock Hill council members have shown support for The Book House and, admittedly, their hands are somewhat tied in this situation. Personally, I think they could look outside the box a bit and maybe come up with something more creative than lip service.
Yes, there is a petition – it has no legal premise, but does show the city of Rock Hill that a lot of people are going to be very upset if the building is demolished and The Book House closed. 1692 have signed the petition, from 13 countries, 41 states, and DC.
And there’s a crowd funding campaign as well. The goal is $300K, and at the moment the total sits at $435. Now, with $300K, Michelle could potentially buy the building and the lot – but with just $50K in funding, she’ll be able to move the store. So every little bit helps!
Why am I involved in this? Several reasons, as I’m a reader, an author, and a publisher. And a bookseller.
But mostly because an attack on one indie bookstore is an attack on all – and make no mistake, this is an attack by the property owner, Rex Stahl. So here’s my letter to him:
Dear Mr. Stahl:
The property on which The Book House sits is indeed your property to use how you wish. I understand that it’s been in your family for quite some time, that you inherited it from your mother. From one standpoint, that makes the situation a bit different. It’s not like you’re a land speculator, buying and selling to make a profit. The entire sale price or, really, anything you make off a sale or other arrangement is pure profit to you. And yes, it’s your property, you’re entitled to that.
I don’t know you, Mr. Stahl, but I do know at least one person with whom you are or have been associated, and I know him – he has no conscience, no morals, no sense of what’s right. And in this case, you seem to have been negatively influenced. You are indeed judged by the company you keep, at least in my opinion.
Oddly enough, Michelle Barron says you’re not a bad man. I fail to see how that can be, given your lack of responsibility for repairs and maintenance over the years, how you’ve tried to squeeze every nickel out of her and avoid spending any of your own money. Not to mention the ridiculous terms you offered her on a lease/purchase at one time.
Maybe you don’t read. Maybe you don’t care about books. I guess I can understand that. A little. But how can you possibly evict a tenant of almost 30 years with a simple service of said eviction? How can you not consider the situation of a long-term tenant, especially one who has improved countless lives through both her bookstore and the charities she supports? My guess, and it’s only that, is the aforementioned association. Surely your own mother would not have approved of this.
I imagine your phone has been ringing quite a bit. I haven’t yet seen that you’ve publicly commented on the potential sale of your property, or the eviction of The Book House. And your other properties, at least the ones in your mother’s trust, are valued at well over one million dollars – would it really hurt you, financially, to work out a plan with Michelle?
I can tell you this – there are plenty of folks who are not at all happy with you right now. That includes the nearly 1700 people who have signed a petition to keep The Book House right where it is, and open for many years to come. And likely your potential buyer, Bill Bowman; probably, too, the city of Rock Hill. They’ve all been getting copies of that petition, every time someone signs it. And their phones have been ringing off the hook. All because of you and your decision.
So think about all this. Think about the right thing to do. There’s no shame in changing your mind about the best course of action. I promise, you could be a hero to a lot of people.