It's old news to just about everyone here about the difficulties of the bookstore business, which has been the subject of the odd SNLC over the years. This SNLC takes up that theme again, with the recent news that The Book House, in the municipality of Rock Hill, needs to leave its current digs by the end of July. The store is currently located in a 150+ yo building that's one of the oldest in Rock Hill, which looks as though it'll get razed to make way for a storage facility. There's a certain meta-irony in that, of course. More below the flip....
Coverage on this story has come from two blog articles this week by Sam Levin at the Riverfront Times, and in between those, an article by Steve Giegerich of the Post-Dispatch:
Giegerich's article summarizes the situation:
"If all goes according to plan, the Book House, two other businesses and a handful of houses tucked into 1.45 acres behind a Manchester Road title company will disappear, razed to make way for a storage facility."Right before that summary, the owner of the store, Michelle Barron, was quoted, where Giegerich noted her choice of grammar:
"'This was a haven, a magical place,' said Barron, already referring to the shop in the past tense."The meta-irony noted before the flip in this situation is that inventory turnover at used bookstores tends to be pretty slow, so that in their way, used bookstores are already "storage facilities". It's just that an actual storage facility can charge people for the privilege of keeping stuff there, while a bookstore has the opposite problem of wanting to unload/sell its inventory, with the corresponding burden of paying taxes on unsold inventory after the end of each year.
Barron has apparently tried to buy the building in the past, per Levin's Monday blog post:
"The Book House....has been in business with a lease at that house for over 30 years and does not own the property. They have made efforts in recent years to try and buy the property, but have not had any luck.....One of the commenters, Linda Austin, wrote in a 'breaking news' post later on the day that the article went on line:
Relocating seems almost impossible says Barron, who is 48 and lives in Webster Groves.
"It would cost a fortune. We'd have to get a loan.... And anything we could get would cost three times as much," she says. "We're just now breaking even and getting back on track from the recession."
"The Book House just got its eviction notice. Out by July. Rock Hill has to rezone that land for industrial and approve their own designated historic structure to be bulldozed."Austin wrote in a later post, regarding Barron:
"She can't afford to relocate. The logistics of moving 200,000 books and finding another affordable place anywhere near that area make it impossible. The developer is not actually going to help, as we can see he hasn't offered to move the house or her books. Just get out."This posting by Austin contradicts the spokesman for EZ Storage, Bill Bowman, in the article:
"Bowman....pledges to help Barron find a new home for the 200,000 books crammed floor to ceiling and into every conceivable cranny of the 1863 Victorian Gothic house.It's easy to be cynical about statements from an out-of-town corporation about trying to be nice to the locals when the big, bad corporate types swoop in and gobble up real estate. Here, the cynicism seems rather justified, although it's the local landlord, Rex Stahl, who's pulling the plug on Barron and the current location of her business. Going back to the possibility of Barron buying the premises, in a "he said, she said" situation, the lawyer for Rex Stahl, David Waltrip, and Barron tell their sides of the story about Barron trying to buy the place earlier:
'We don't want her on the street,' he said. 'We want to work with her.'
Bowman said Great Northern Developments is considering several options, including preserving the character of the quirky bookstore by physically moving the 150-year-old home to another location.
'It's great, I love the place,' he said. 'I love the idea of sitting in a house and reading. But sometimes you can move an old house and sometimes you can’t.'
"Waltrip also says that Barron had an opportunity to purchase the house - but backed out.Given that the RFT leans left, even in its corporate New Times-owned incarnation, the blog writer's sympathies and shading of the article are pretty obvious. The current RFT blog post from Monday mentions 2006 article on The Book House, which draws parallels between Barron and Rock Hill itself:
'We thought she was going to buy the building, and we were going to have to carve out that portion,' Waltrip says, 'but she was the one that withdrew.'
Barron, however, says that she did everything in her power to try and purchase the house, but that the landlord only made offers that would be financially impossible.
'I tried for three years to buy this property,' she says. 'I could not get a bank loan to save my life.... I tried and I tried and I tried.'
She adds, 'It was obvious I wanted to keep the building, but they would not give me any way to do it.'"
"In some ways Michelle Barron is an apt metaphor for struggling Rock Hill. Sharing borders with its more prosperous neighbors — Webster Groves, Ladue, Brentwood and Glendale — the one-square-mile city of 4,700 people has been running on empty for a decade. Government is administered from a mini-strip mall, a rented city hall pressed between Missouri Payday Loan and Rock Hill Chop Suey. The city's municipal building, now boarded up, was sold for $3.6 million last August to Novus Development Co.....There's also this interesting bit:
Nearly $3 million in debt, Rock Hill is without a fire chief or police chief. There's no money to build a permanent city hall, and roadwork projects are on hold. Empty city positions cannot be filled."
"The city had a chance about five years ago to bring in a Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, but a public outcry prevented it and the retail center ended up on Hanley Road in Maplewood, which was then facing bankruptcy. That development deal, which like the Market at McKnight was partially funded through tax-increment financing (TIF), has added $2.5 million to Maplewood's bottom line."I loathe Wal-Mart as much as any self-respecting DK'er, but with the benefit of hindsight, one now has to wonder. Also, there's this bit from that article, quoting Rex Stahl:
'"I'm not going to tear it down," Stahl says, standing outside his foreign-car repair shop, located just behind the Book House. "I just wish the city had some money. They could use it as a library."'No, Stahl won't tear it down. Someone else will, the firm he sells it out to, which will amount to the same thing, of course.
Self will admit that I'm not exactly helpful regarding the plight of The Book House, as I think I've only been there once or twice ever over the years, and I can't remember if I've ever bought a book there. I probably haven't. I love used bookstores, but I also have too many unread books in my place, as I constantly state in posts under cfk's Bookflurries diaries. So it wouldn't really be smart for me to add more to that backlog. However, I suppose that here, I might have to make an exception to that idea. It would be good if a bunch of local folk could do the same thing, i.e. buy books to help reduce her inventory and ease the burden of trying to move to a new location. We'll see if that happens, on my side and other people's.
So with that, time for the usual SNLC protocol, namely your loser stories of the week. But to add to the loserness here....