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Posted on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

Residents express disappointment and sense of inevitability at closing of flagship Borders store

By Lizzy Alfs


Ann Arbor residents Victoria Charow and Jason Andrews browse outside the downtown Borders store Monday afternoon.

Lizzy Alfs |

Many Ann Arbor residents expressed disappointment today upon the news that the Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. plans to liquidate, which will close the flagship store on the corner of Liberty and Maynard streets.

The liquidation was announced today shortly after 4:10 p.m., and the chain’s 399 remaining stores will be closed quickly, with liquidation sales starting as soon as Friday. The company did receive a bid to acquire leases for 30 stores.

Along with leaving a 42,000-square-foot storefront vacant in downtown Ann Arbor, the 10,700 people who still work for Borders will lose their jobs.

Borders liquidating

Many people in downtown Ann Arbor today reacted with disappointment, although several people said they thought the store closing was inevitable.

“I think that Borders was a part of this community, but with the fiscal state of both the country and this particular enterprise, it seems like this has been inevitable for quite some time,” said Larry Molar, a 30-year Ann Arbor resident.

Molar attributed the company’s financial trouble to “bad management” and electronic media, like the Amazon Kindle e-book reader.

“It’s a very competitive climate for books right now,” he said. “This city is going to be kind of a literary wasteland for a while.”

Joan Chesler, who has been an Ann Arbor resident for over 50 years, said that the liquidation likely resulted from the company over-expanding and not remaining focused on book sales.

“It’s sad, you know, because it started from nothing and over-expanded,” she said. “I think they didn’t focus on their book business enough…they have all this stuff like stationery and not enough books.”

For Ann Arbor resident Holly Ramsey, the news over the loss of Borders came as a “shame and a disappointment.”

“This is my favorite bookstore,” Ramsey said. “We need a bookstore downtown. It’s very disappointing.”

Stephen Rooke, a recent University of Michigan Law School graduate, said that losing the flagship Borders store downtown reflects a trend of locally based retailers closing.

“Ann Arbor’s downtown is definitely changing,” Rooke said. “Shaman Drum closed, CVS, 7-Eleven and Chipotle all opened. The chains are coming in, and with Borders shutting down, the city is losing more of its local flair.”

Although Rooke said it’s a “shame” that the downtown Borders store is closing, he said that available retail space could end up benefiting the city.

“It’s a big space and it might be a great opportunity for a new company to come in and really reuse the space and create even more jobs,” he said. “You just never know.”

In a change of tune, Ann Arbor resident Jason Andrews said that the Borders closing does not affect him and he views it as a benefit to the community.

“When this Borders opened, they took out several other smaller, locally owned bookstores,” he said. “And the prices at Borders were higher.”

Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at Follow her on Twitter at



Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 3:57 p.m.

So sad to hear about this. My deepest thoughts of support to all employees, especially the Liberty Street store family. As an ex-employee (circa late 90's), I remember working with the most intelligent, interesting and kind people there. Many folks devoted their lives to that bookstore, whether in management, books, music, events, kids or food. Borders was not just a store, it was our community. Everyone who worked there should be honored to know they are part of that irreplaceable history. Thank you for all you've given! Life will go on. Amber Melosi Aponte Long Island, NY

Will Warner

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

I feel for the employees, but when a door closes, a window opens. There is nothing quintessentially "Ann Arbor." Everybody has his own snapshot of the town at a certain moment and thinks that's the real Ann Arbor. Everything in Ann Arbor replaced something else that is missed by people older than us. If nothing changed, Old Town would still be the dive bar for winos it was when I was a kid. It was traumatic when Jacobsons decamped but Boarders filled the space admirably, so well in fact, that, to many, Boarders in that store is part of "the way it is supposed to be." Now I'm excited to imagine what might go in there and become part of "the way it is supposed to be" for my grandchildren.

Will Warner

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 1:28 p.m.


Robert D. Mosley

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 1:46 a.m.

This is so very disappointing. I can not believe that Ann Arbor of all places will not have a Border's! This is a very good article in showing the feelings of people about this closing. There should be an investigative article on companies that start small and are successful and end up being bought out by the behemoths who, in the end gut the business, and leave us with the shell in our downtowns. Thank you again for such an excellent article elaborating on the disappointment we all feel.

Lynn Liston

Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 12:53 a.m.

This is very sad news. I remember many a pleasant Saturday afternoon at the original Borders on State Street and at the later, much fancier, location in the old Jacobson's building. And didn't I just read that David's Book is also closing? That block just won't be the same. Where we will browse now while waiting for movies across the street at the Michigan? I hope they won't fill the space with another chain clothing store or restaurant. Perhaps the space can be divided up into smaller shops and one of our local book sellers might consider opening a campus location? I am sorry for those who are losing their jobs- they served the reading community well over the years and their knowledge and presence will be greatly missed.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

"Where we will browse now while waiting for movies across the street at the Michigan?" I think that is a big part of the problem. Too much looking and not enough purchasing. A bookstore can't be like a library which is funded by tax dollars. It needs revenue to survive. Perhaps if you and others would have spent more and browsed less maybe they would still have a future. But of course, if management would have incorporated some sort of non-loitering policy, no matter how subtle it was, folks like you and others may have labeled them capitalist pigs?


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 11:03 p.m.

Local businesses like the flagship Border's, John Leidy's & Schoolkid's, which all graced Liberty Street for decades, have contributed much to making Ann Arbor the livable, interesting city it's been. How sad that the last of these great anchors will soon be gone. We need more than restaurants and chain stores for a vibrant downtown & campus. I will miss Border's tremendously.


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 10:55 p.m.

The liquidation of Borders is very bad news for readers, the Ann Arbor community, and especially the loyal and hard working employees at the stores. They gave their very best over the years and provided customers with excellent service. My thanks especially to Terry at the downtown store for his impressive knowledge of music and to Shannon at Arborland and Waters Place for her total dedication to Borders for so many years. All the best to the members of the Borders family. You will be sadly missed.


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 10:31 p.m.

When we first moved here in the 80s, I visited the one(!) Borders often with my kids. The sales people ALL could identify any book from my vaguest description. It was the best part of Ann Arbor as far as I was concerned. An amazing place. So amazing I immediately decided I would like to work there just to become friendly with these people who knew books so well. When I asked for an application form for a part-time job, I was told I'd have to pass a literature test and then if hired, I would need to work for three years full time before being eligible to apply to work part time. So times have changed and the Borders of old has long been gone. I will not miss it as much as I would have thought if you had told me back in the day that it would be closing. Still, I salute the old Borders and its good people. You we will miss and have for a while.


Tue, Jul 19, 2011 : 11:30 a.m.

You meant you would have to work 3 yrs part-time to apply to work full-time, right?


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 10:30 p.m.

This is super disappointing, of course. Absolutely sucks ;_; I have seen some the same faces working there since I was an undergrad in the late 90s. My heart goes out to those that lost their jobs, especially those working at the retail locations. I do hope something non-purely clothing or restaurant comes in, such as a Target, Trader Joe's, b&n, or indie bookstore like Powell's (I guess I can dream)... It looks like it will be subdivided though so who knows.


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 11:41 p.m.

Powell's would be awesome in that space. I guess we can all dream.


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

Hi A2Susie, I was thinking something more useful than a clothing store or another restaurant, but yeah, that's probably overkill. My thought was since Target sponsors events at places like the DIA and MOMA-NY, it could possibly fill the roll that Borders did here in A2, in that respect. We are losing a community events sponsor. Powell's or something like it is my major hope, but I logically don't see that happening.


Mon, Jul 18, 2011 : 10:33 p.m.

Please not a Target!