So long, my friend. So long.


I’m not good with goodbyes. When I finally quit my job at Borders years ago, it was without fanfare — mostly because I knew that I would sob like a child if someone extended kind words or rumpled me into a hug.

Our Borders — the sole bookstore in our town of more than 50,000 people, of the entire Southern Maryland area — opened in the ’90s to great excitement. My dad, a sportswriter, had the very first book signing in our Waldorf, Md., location. I have distinct memories of going there as a kid with my parents, paging through the store’s vast selection of CDs for the section labeled “HANSON” and chatting with others wandering the aisles.

I love the smell of books, wood and coffee. I love the chatter that erupts from the cafe at strange intervals, or the way groups of people mingle in the same space while exploring vastly different books. The magazine readers mix with the chai tea drinkers; the photography-book-lovers chat with the YA fans. We’re all here in the same place — a complicated tangle of community.

And Borders is our community bookstore. There are no independent bookstores here — and the only other book vendors? Target, Wal-Mart, Costco. We have a few secondhand bookstores in the area, but most are at least 40 minutes away and without new titles. The next-closest “new books” bookstore is Barnes & Noble in Annapolis, and I’ve always been a loyal Borders fan.

But our Borders is closing. All Borders stores are closing. Save a deal with Books-A-Million that would continue to operate 30 stores, including ours, Southern Maryland will have no bookstore.

I’m devastated.

I’ve already written extensively about my Borders memories, both as a customer and an employee. I made countless friends there, clocked countless hours there, bought countless books there. Knowing that our store will soon close opens a bottomless pit in my stomach, which has been sick since the news broke earlier this week. On my birthday.

I knew Borders was on borrowed time — for many, many reasons — but the cold, hard reality of the liquidation process is awful. I can’t imagine walking into that store with “Everything must go!” signage hanging from the balustrades where we once dangled streamers for Halloween events or the “Harry Potter” midnight release parties. I don’t want to see people picking clean the carcasses of the bookshelves, benches and tables where I whiled away so many hours. And later, when it’s all over, I don’t want to drive by the empty storefront.

I’m sending others out to do reconnaissance and maybe say a fond farewell for me to the store that once felt like home. But you won’t find me going through bins or stocking up on back titles or rummaging through shelving. I want to think of Borders the way it was. I want to think of my Borders the way it used to be.

I can’t say goodbye.

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15 thoughts on “So long, my friend. So long.

  1. When our Borders first opened in the (late 80’s I think), I was so excited. In the suburbs of metro Detroit at that time, there weren’t any big bookstores at all. My son grew up going to Borders – it was a huge treat for us to go peruse the picture books, maybe take in story time, and get a drink in the cafe. Later on when he’d hang out in the sci-fi or CD section, I’d meander the store, coffee in hand, checking out all the new fiction and making mental lists of what to read next.

    There are some strange and unsettling forces at work in the world of books. As a book lover (and by that I mean a lover of physical books themselves, as well as a lover of the written word) I’m decidedly frightened by these changes.

    I’m glad you have such good memories of the Borders stores ~ thanks for sharing them.

    • Thanks for sharing your memories too, Becca. I grew up going to Borders, too, and can’t imagine a world without them. It was sad to see the CD section gradually diminish, but I figured that was just the changing times . . . I never dreamed that the entire store would someday be gone. Just crazy.

  2. I’m currently an employee at a Borders in Virginia, and I’m glad to know that I’m not that only one who’s heart is breaking with this. We had to hang up all the signs last night, and even though we have unlimited overtime right now, I can’t bring myself to go back into the store. All those hours of carefully placing books back where they go, just to have them ransacked everywhere? It’ll be worse than the kid’s section is on a busy saturday! While this is just my summer job between college semesters, my heart aches for those who have dedicated their lives to this and are now left empty handed. But we can only hope that this isn’t the beginning of the end for all bookstores, or more importantly, libraries. Or for that matter, pysical books.

    Anyway, thanks so much for sharing your stories about Borders, it always helps to know we’re not alone in this 🙂

    • I feel for you, Hannah, and can’t imagine how tough it is working at your store right now. Just as you describe, it makes me sick to think of the store being rummaged through and ransacked . . . ugh. But I guess it is what it is, however sad it makes me.

      Thinking of you and hoping that physical books are around for a long time to come!

  3. It’s always sad to see bookstores leave. You’ll have to make some road trips to Politics and Prose, a great indie bookstore right outside of DC.

  4. Meg I just shed a tear for this post! I bid a farewell today, for the both of us. For me, it was like a wake. You always hope when someone you love passes on, there will be hundreds there to say goodbye. It shows that you weren’t the only one who loved them and maybe they’ll be looking down and see how many people were there. Today, I felt the love for Borders as I had to practically squeeze past someone in every single row I walked down. There were people everywhere. I was a little disappointed, the cheapskate in me was hoping for a farewell shopping spree, especially after receiving a 40% off email today. But instead I found a few items for 40% and most for 10%. It made me a little sad because I wanted to go in and get a lot for my price, but they have to do what they can at this point to bring in the dough. The more I write this post, the more I am realize I am conrtradicting myself. At the beginning it was about the funeral aspect, and now I am being completely selfish about the prices. I am distraught and can’t deal anymore 😦

  5. I’ve never lived near a Borders store, there were a few in Orlando, but were closed in round 1. I grew up with WaldenBooks and B.Dalton, and then Barnes & Noble. I have missed a bookstore in the malls, even if they were smaller. Now I work part time at B&N, and I’d be devastated if we were to close, they’ve been my go to for years. I can’t imagine how sad this is for you.

  6. It’s sad that some areas will now be without a nearby bookstore. I guess I’m lucky, my town of 25,000 has two independent bookstores plus Barnes and Noble and Half-Price Books are a short drive away.

  7. Yeah, it makes me very sad that Borders is closing. Growing up in outer suburban Maryland, Borders was our only bookstore (my hometown now has a Barnes and Noble but still no indie booksellers). I went to the Borders in my hometown this weekend and it just sort of depressed me. I spent so many hours in that store and it’s hard to say goodbye.

  8. I am so with you. I miss my Borders. It was one of the first to go in the initial closing a few months ago. It was near work so it was a great place to go when I was killing time before meeting up with people after work or when I needed to grab a gift, etc. I loved it. It was huge. Now it’s gone. And no, I too, didn’t want to go scan the shelves for bargains because I couldn’t believe it was gone! Now, in it’s place is going to be a bowling alley. I can’t believe it.

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