A2 landmark, Liberty St. Borders to close today

By Andrew Schulman, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 9, 2011

Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. said it will close its flagship location at 612 East Liberty St. today, six weeks after announcing it would liquidate its 399 stores and all of its assets.

But even as the chain liquidates stores nationwide and clears stock at discount rates as high as 90 percent, Borders’s future remains uncertain. An auction of the group’s intellectual property — including its brand name, website and customer loyalty program — is set for Sept. 14. This leaves the possibility that Borders could continue as an online bookseller, like the now online-only electronics retailer Circuit City.

It is unclear if Borders, which announced its liquidation on July 18, has received any bids for its intellectual property. The bids were due Sept. 8, according to Borders spokeswoman Mary Davis. However, she wrote in an e-mail interview to The Michigan Daily that she would not comment further until the information is ready to be made to the public.

As it nears the end of its liquidation process, Borders is also entangled in a pair of legal battles with former employees and business partners. Davis declined to comment on the status of the ongoing lawsuits.

Business seemed as usual at the East Liberty Street Borders location on Friday. Discounts rose to as high as 90 percent, and signs announced that even the store furniture is for sale. Employees hung posters broadcasting the deals and fielded questions from customers who were confused that the business section had been reduced to a single bookshelf with no system of organization.

Customers and passersby had mixed reactions to the store’s closing. Dozens of pedestrians along East Liberty, taking notice of the signs advertising the markdowns, wandered into the store hoping to find a steal.

Matt Newman, a Rackham student studying classics, said he came into the store looking for two children’s books he had read when he was younger, but after browsing through a children’s section in disarray and dismissing the “strange-looking young adult fiction” that was on display throughout the store, he left a few minutes later.

“I don’t think there was any real rhyme or reason to the way things were going in there now,” Newman said.

While Newman and others streaming into the store returned empty-handed, sometimes after only a few minutes, others emerged carrying as many as three or four plastic bags filled with books, music and movies.

Bill Auernhamer, a long-time Ann Arbor resident, purchased two hardcover books from the store for a total of $1.70 in what he said was his fourth or fifth visit to the store since Borders announced its liquidation. Had discounts not been so steep, he said, he might not have purchased anything from a selection of books that had been “pretty well-picked over by now.”

“You wouldn’t want to go in there looking for a specific book — you probably wouldn’t find it,” Auernhamer said. “But if you’re looking for something that might be interesting, at a good price, you might still go in there and find something.”

Borders was founded in Ann Arbor in 1971 by Tom and Louis Borders.

Auernhamer, an avid reader since he retired, said he is “sad” to see Borders close.

“I’ve been coming in and out of this store for I don’t know how long. I remember when this store was on State Street,” he said. “I can never remember feeling so sad over a store closing.”