Now that the doors of Borders on East Liberty Street are officially closed, many students, Ann Arbor residents and local bookstore owners are wondering what will next fill the 37,000-square-foot space.
Ralph Welton, chief development official for the city of Ann Arbor, said the lease for the space may have been bought and could potentially be subdivided into three different build-outs.
“I think that either retail or restaurants will soon occupy the building because those are always popular in Ann Arbor,” Welton said.
Borders, Inc., which liquidated 399 stores across the country and closed the East Liberty store on Monday, was started in Ann Arbor by brothers Tom and Louis Borders in 1971.
Local bookstore owners have mixed views on how the closing of Borders will affect their businesses. While some bookstore owners said they are anticipating an uptick in business, others said they’re unsure what kind of impact the closure will have on their stores.
Nicola Rooney, owner of Nicola’s Books on Jackson Avenue in Ann Arbor, said she anticipates a definite change in the customer traffic of local bookstores due to Borders’s closing. She added that she has noticed an upswing in patronage at her store since August.
“People who used to buy books in Borders are looking to us to carry what they are looking for,” Rooney said. “Groups who used to meet in Borders now meet here. We are adjusting our inventory to cater to the people.”
Rooney said she anticipates that the dynamics of Ann Arbor’s downtown businesses will continue to adapt despite the loss of Borders.
“Now people have to make the decision to come out to other bookstores that are now in the downtown area,” Rooney said. “We will be watching to see what people are looking for and make sure to keep the right options in stock. I don’t assume any specific change, but I am watching and will respond quickly. There definitely will be a change.”
Corby Gillmore, manager of the Dawn Treader Book Shop on East Liberty Street, said he isn’t sure what will replace the void Borders left in town but expressed regret about the store’s closing.
“In a couple of months from now we will have a better idea of what is going on with the replacement, but (what) I do know is that more people are not coming downtown to pass the time at Borders anymore, and that is bad for all of us,” Gillmore said.
While Borders was competition for local bookstores, the attention and number of students it brought to the State Street area made it a beneficial asset, Gillmore said.
“Hopefully a couple of retail stores will replace the bookstore, but it has been there for so long, it’s hard to know what’s coming next,” he said. “All we can do is adapt to the change.”
Rachel Pastiva, the bookstore manager of Crazy Wisdom Bookstore & Tea Room on Main Street, said she is also unsure about what will fill the space but added that she hopes to increase her success as a bookstore due to the closing.
“I don’t think we’ve been planning any specific way of changing our store, but we hope to have more mainstream titles as a specialty bookstore,” Pastiva said. “It’s a question we are all asking ourselves of how this will affect bookstores and what people are looking for in general.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the status and future use of the Borders space. A previous version of this article also incorrectly identified Rachel Pastiva’s title and misquoted her.