Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Farewell to Borders. Now what?

I helped open the Borders (369) in Rapid City, SD back in the fall of 1999. When my wife and I moved to the Twin Cities, I spent a year working at the Borders in Richfield (189) and then helped open the Borders in Coon Rapids, MN (531) and worked there for two years. We moved back to Rapid City and I worked several years full time and another year or so part time at Borders. In all, I came up one month short of working for Borders for ten years, working in nearly every position except cafe and general manager.

Towards the end there it became frustrating. It seemed the company never quite knew where to put their focus. We had a new instructions every six months it seemed. But my point wasn't to talk about why Borders is closing.

I wanted to talk about all the great friends I made working there. I literally cannot go anywhere without running into at least one person who also worked at Borders.

And for Rapid City in particular, it was the only source of everything I thought was cool: music, books and movies. Yes, the prices were higher, but the selection was wider. And I took a tremendous amount of pride in delivering excellent customer service every time. Each individual customer was a personal challenge for me.

I still remember the guy who said his wife sent him in for Stephen King's book "Sack of Bones". I brought him "Bag of Bones" (the correct title, obviously) and he looked at me like I was handing him a dead rat. He left the store convinced I was an idiot. Maybe he's at home right now, still waiting for Stephen King to write "Sack of Bones"?

Last week I stopped in the Rapid City Borders to experience the surreal and distressing scene for myself. I even helped another customer find "that mystery series with all the food titles". (Joanne Fluke, if you're interested). It felt good.

I liked helping people find stuff they liked. I'm not against Amazon. As of right now, almost all of the anthologies I have contributed to are available on Amazon, while none of them are/were carried at Borders. But the person to person connection is gone. Or at least one step removed. Will everything be done via computer one day soon? We could all be shut-ins and hermits... if we wanted.

There's also a personal, perhaps even petty reason why I'm sorry to see Borders in Rapid City close. I'm getting to the point in my career where anthologies I am selling stories to are 'big' enough that Borders would have carried them. "Blood Lite 3", edited by Kevin J. Anderson, will be released next summer on Simon and Schuster's Gallery imprint. I was SO looking forward to strolling into a book store, picking 'my book' up off the shelf and casually remarking to whomever happened to be browsing nearby: "You know, I'm IN this." Okay, maybe not quite like that, but ordering it online just won't feel as good.

So now what? Rapid City deserves a book store. Shoppers came to Borders every weekend from Wyoming and Nebraska. I hope another company sees the void and realizes Rapid City is a viable market for a "big box book store". People use that phrase like it's a terrible thing.

Not having a new book store... THAT'S a terrible thing.

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