Ann Arbor businesses left wondering about impact of Borders liquidation
Monday's announcement that Borders’ will liquidate wasn’t a shock to those who have watched its struggles, but some local businesses now wonder how the closing of one of Ann Arbor’s largest employers will affect them.
Nicola Rooney, owner of Nicola’s Books, 2513 Jackson Road, said Borders’ demise won’t end up hurting Ann Arbor residents who are looking to buy books from a brick-and-mortar bookstore. She said she expected her store to see some uptick in sales now that Borders will be gone, but believes it’s unreasonable to expect a massive swing in sales.
Nicola’s Books has been around since the early 1970s, about the same amount of time as Borders, and Rooney said she still believes there’s a market for stores that sell “dead-tree books,” even though the market for booksales is in a major state of change.
“Our appeal is to people who still like to look at books before they buy them and get recommendations from people they trust,” she said, adding that her business is still turning a profit. “We hope there’s still enough business there to keep us going.”
Borders was undone by a lack of adapting to the Internet age, overexpansion and overall poor business decisions, but the declining interest in physical books wasn’t a major factor, she said.
Rooney said it’s unfair to categorize Borders’ downfall as a condemnation of the physical book or bookstore. Although there is a huge amount of change in the world of book sales, Rooney said Borders’ fate was more due to its management.
“There we so many poor decisions that they made and they have not made the most of what is definitely a difficult situation,” she said.
It is expected that the downtown Borders store, the company’s flagship location and an Ann Arbor staple since 1971, will be forced to close as a part of the liquidation process.
It’s a reality that’s going to leave a big hole in Ann Arbor’s business legacy, said Russ Collins, executive director of The Michigan Theater, located across East Liberty from the downtown Borders store.
Comparing it to a destination business in Ann Arbor like Zingerman’s, Collins said it was a dark day in Ann Arbor now that the store will have to close.
“We’re sad. I remember when the original Borders opened on State Street,” he said. “It’s an Ann Arbor business legacy, and it was a very nice driver of traffic in the neighborhood, and it’s a very sad day for Ann Arbor and Ann Arbor business.”
There were 399 stores left in the chain when the company announced liquidation. About 30 may survive as an unnamed buyer considers buying the leases, but the downtown store has been listed for rent.
Other businesses in the area aren’t entirely concerned about their fortunes if the store does end up closing.
Enrique Aquino, manager at Potbelly Sandwich Shop, 300 State St., said most of the customers that come into the sandwich shop are college students and business people in the area. He said he doesn’t see too many people carrying bags from Borders coming into the store.
“I have no idea if that will affect us," Aquino said. "To be honest, I don’t think so,”
AnnArbor.com summer intern Ben Freed contributed to this story.