Borders bankruptcy and what it means to Chicago
Wed Feb 16 2011
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has the full list, and it looks like five closures in the city: Beverly, Uptown, Lincoln Village, North/Halsted and Lakeview. The two big surprises there are the Lakeview and Lincoln Village shops. As I noted below, the former had the most interesting programming of all the local Borders locations, and from talking to friends who work for the chain, the Lincoln Village shop does well. It's a shame, also, to see two stores on either end of the outer reaches of the city—Beverly and Lincoln Village—where there aren't a lot of bookstores, close. The Uptown closure was rumored years ago, so no surprises there.
I'm pleased and a little surprised to see the State Street shop will stick around, if only because it's a positive to have a large bookstore downtown. A fair number are also closing in the burbs.
Well, despite recent noise out of corporate headquarters, the writing was on the wall: Borders, the second-largest bookstore chain in the country, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company has announced that it will close 30 percent of its stores—around 200 total—in the coming weeks. Locally, Borders has already closed its flagship store on Michigan Avenue, and has begun winding down operations at the Hyde Park location. A call in to Borders's media line directed us to bordersreorganization.com, which will post full list of stores to be closed by 2pm today. We'll update this post with the Chicago-area list as soon as possible.
Obviously, this is bad news. Putting aside the homogenization of literary culture that chain bookstores have effected over the years—and the pressure they've put on independent stores—Borders owes a lot of money to publishers. PW has the full rundown, but we're talking $41.1 million to places like Penguin, and a bankruptcy court will decide now how much those publishers see.
And not for nothing, in Chicago that's going to mean lost jobs. On the literary front, it doesn't seem likely to affect things too much. The Lakeview shop occasionally hosts interesting events, but aside from that, only the State Street books regularly, and often times that's the celebrity ab-workout-raw-anemone-diet-book signings. Chicago is also lucky to be home to a wide array of idiosyncratic and supportive smaller bookshops. Here's hoping Borders keeps some stores open where there aren't many other choices.