Borders’ final chapter saddens shoppers

As bookseller heads into liquidation today, they will miss local store

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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A place to browse books. Somewhere to grab coffee. A spot for gathering with friends.

That’s what some Clark County residents who frequent the region’s only Borders bookstore, off 160th Avenue in east Vancouver, said they’ll miss about the store on its last day of regular operations. The second-largest U.S. book retailer heads into liquidation today.

“I don’t do Kindle,” said Gina Rohrback, a 44-year-old Vancouver resident who visited the store Thursday. “I need a book in my hand.”

The loss of Borders leaves Clark County with only one large book retailer — Barnes & Noble Booksellers near Westfield Vancouver mall — and a handful of independent booksellers.

Vancouver resident Chelsea Wellman, 20, who toted a Seattle’s Best iced coffee that she purchased at Borders, said she’ll miss the store’s atmosphere, its offer to huddle with friends and be surrounded by books. “I’ve never bought a book online,” she said.

A bankruptcy judge on Thursday approved Borders Group’s plan to sell off its assets via a group of liquidators. Going-out-of-business sales are set to begin at some stores today, including at the company’s store in Vancouver.

In a news release this week, Borders Group President Mike Edwards addressed the reasons for the company’s fall, saying the “headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now.”

Several area residents said Thursday they plan to return to Borders today to hunt for bargains as the liquidation process gets under way.

Camas resident Kathy Wallen, 58, doubts they’ll find many deals. When the Kmart on Andresen Road shuttered its doors and sold off itself off in pieces, Wallen said, liquidators tried to unload stuff at double the price.

“Oh, heavens yeah,” she said when asked whether she expected similar prices during the Vancouver Borders’ sell-off.

Customers also reported similar markups when the Joe’s sporting goods chain liquidated.

Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February, and at the time it hoped to successfully emerge from bankruptcy protection by the fall as a smaller and more profitable company.

The move by 40-year-old Borders to sell off its assets had been expected since the company’s attempt to stay in business unraveled quickly last week, after a $215 million bid by private-equity firm Najafi Cos. collapsed. Creditors and lenders had objected to the takeover, arguing that the chain would be worth more if it liquidated immediately.

The company’s liquidation is expected to finish by September.

About 30 to 35 of Borders’ remaining 399 stores could be sold to rival chain Books-a-Million Inc. The two companies are still in talks, but if that deal happens, it could save about 1,500 of Borders’ remaining 10,700 jobs, said Borders lawyer Andrew Glenn.

It’s unclear how many jobs at the Vancouver Borders will be lost.

In any case, shopper Rohrback will miss seeing the local Borders workers, who she says delivered fantastic customer service.

“Someone greets me,” she said, recalling her visits to the store. “They don’t follow me around.”

Rohrback said she would prefer not to go to Barnes & Noble Booksellers. There, she said, you get “lost in the pool.”

Vancouver resident Harvey Gross, 73, said Thursday it’s sad to lose the local Borders. He lives only a mile away from it, he said, and enjoyed dropping by once a month to buy titles from his favorite authors.

Angie Quinn, 42, who lives in Camas, left Borders Thursday with a book she purchased for her son, whose birthday is coming up. Quinn said she’s not yet sure where she’ll go to buy books now that Borders is going away.

She prefers a bricks-and-mortar store, not a digital one. “I like to browse,” she said

The Associated Press contributed to this story.