Friday, February 18, 2011

Borders Opens the Book to Chapter 11

The rivalry between Borders and Barnes and Noble was one of the epic business rivalries of the 1990s. Wall Street cheered as they each built mega-stores across the country. Then in the late 1990s, entered the race as an online bookseller.

I remember Borders as a family run bookstore catering to a colege town on State Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the 1980s. They had a great selection, and helpful, knowledgeable staff. When they went nationwide, they added music CDs, and what distinguished Borders was that it was place you could go for books and music.

Borders was worth over $3 billion in 1998, but went downhill from there and fell off the cliff in 2008. The problems were clear to anyone who shopped at a Borders store in recent years, with Christmas shoppers greeted with half empty shelves filled with disorganized inventory manned by a skeleton staff.

I remember particularly the Borders on Orchard Lake Road in Farmington Hill, Michigan. It was just around the corner from my grandmother's house. I remember stopping by with her in fall 1997 and explaining to my grandmother what a CD was.

And there's the rub on Borders. Kids don't buy CDs anymore. And now it looks like printed books and brick and mortar bookstores are gong the same direction. Borders may come out of bankruptcy, they say they will close 200 to 275 of their 642 remaining stores, but will never be the same.

Here's that Farmington Hills store in happier times:

And here's that stored after it was closed in January and stripped of the Borders signage:

If you go to the store locator on, it says "Sorry, this store is closed." There is still a welcome from Dan Rhen, General Manager:

Welcome to Borders in Farmington Hills. If you don't know the name of the title you have been looking for ask for Gary! Gary has been with this store for 8 years and in the book business for many more. He will gladly help you find the title you cannot remember, and he may even recommend a few more. If you're looking for a special children's title, Dee can help you out. A self-described bookaholic, Dee is well-versed in children's authors both past and present.
That's the old Borders spirit! Good luck to Dan, Gary, and Dee.

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