RIP, Waldenbooks

On Tuesday, our local branch of the Waldenbooks franchise closed down for good. Undoubtedly, there will be a number of customers that will be coming to the mall in the next six to twelve months asking whoever rents out that spot where the bookstore went, but there you have it.

Borders, which owns Waldenbooks, decided late last year that they were going to close down 200 of the smaller mall locations around the country. Two in Vermont – Berlin (My store) and Rutland, were both on the cutting block, although the Borders express in South Burlington will remain open. I’m guessing that this is a bit of a complicated position for Borders – the recent financial crisis added to the already piling issues that brick and mortar face: declining sales in light of competition from online retailers, not to mention absolutely inefficient business practices on the part of how Borders runs their stores, something I’ve ranted about before.

Still, with all my issues about Borders aside, I will miss working there, and the store itself. I began work in the fall of 2006, where I worked at the Kiosk, and continued to work through the winter and next fall as a regular employee, before leaving to work at Norwich University. I returned late last year after a friend left, because I was hit with a bit of nostalgia for the store and working there. While that didn’t last long, it was nice while it lasted. I’ve long been a customer at this particular branch, even before I went to work there. The selection for what I was looking for, mainly science fiction, was always top-notch, and when I began to work there, I met a number of people who I likely wouldn’t have met normally, and like camp, I’ve managed to hold onto a good group of close friends.

Looking back at my time there, I’ve often told myself that if I’m ever going to be in a position to make a television show, I’ll write something about here. There was endless problems with customers, other employees (there was always drama of some sort) and from all that, quite a lot of humor and laughter. Romance books were something that could easily be thrown across the store at an annoying co-worker, but also the slow times, after all of our duties were done, chatting with people for a couple hours in-between customers. There are a lot of good memories there, which I’ll remember over the bad times that I’ve had there (and there were several). Hell, I’ll even miss some of our crazy regular customers who were really out there.

Plus, the bookstore was a source of a lot of books for me. We made sure (when we could) that the comics and Science Fiction and Fantasy section was well stocked, special ordering books that we knew would move out the door, kept it well stocked and neat, and offered a good selection of other books as well. There’s a bunch of stores in the area, such as Bear Pond Books, Rivendell Books and the Northfield Bookstore, but they just don’t have the same selection. I’ll stop in when I can, but I just won’t make a point to stop by and browse, because my friends won’t be there either, as I’d often do over the past couple of years.

So, farewell, bookstore. I’ll miss giving you money in exchange for feeding my habit of books, and while my wallet and bookshelves won’t thank you, I’ll miss the fun times that never will be, and the friends that I made there.

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38 thoughts on “RIP, Waldenbooks

  1. I’ve never worked at a bookstore, but have longed too. Our closest bookstore (B. Daltons) closed over a year ago. Now I have to drive at least 20 minutes to get to a bookstore. I miss it. I dread the electronic revolutions effect on books. Good for the trees, weird for me.

    • I’m fortunate here – there’s a number of smaller bookstores in the area, but there is a couple of the larger ones about 40 or so minutes away, which isn’t too bad.

      I’m not sure what the electronics revolution will hold for books – I don’t think that the format will go anywhere, honestly. Big chain stores such as Barnes and Noble will likely last, as well as a handful of smaller stores, but I suspect that a bigger revolution will be with the book expresso machine – a machine that prints up books while you wait. There’s a store not too far from here that has one.

      • I love that idea. What would the implications be regarding publisher and author? Would a book seller that has such a machine have to pay a fee? Limit on number of pages? Could he offer Standard, Premium, and Super Deluxe versions of a book? I imagine there are people who just want the text in Arial font 10 or 12 and no fancy cover.

        Whereas, other people might want a choice of font and book cover…even quality of paper.

        The paper recycling industry would benefit.

      • Well, from what I understand, and I haven’t actually seen one of these machines, is that it can access Google Books, and print off just about anything from there, or become a sort of print on demand for authors, etc. The website for the thing is here: http://www.ondemandbooks.com, and I think that this’ll be the future of bookselling.
        The problem now is that there isn’t any sort of infrastructure set up to access other books. Imagine, the entire collection of Amazon.com avaliable from one store, and I suspect that that future isn’t too far off, especially when they have more and more books on the Kindle. Not great for browsing, ultimately, but really good for books.

    • Yeah, that’s what I’m going to find, I think. Without fail, I’d usually have a friend or two working there on any given night, and it was usually on my way home from work.

  2. Our Waldenbooks branch closed three, maybe four years ago. I worked at Famous-Barr (remember those?) Sometimes my husband would meet me for lunch; if he wasn’t outside the store’s entrance, I’d think “He’s probably at the bookstore.”
    I remember B. Daltons too; spent many lazy days there with my husband too.
    Not sure if I like reading a novel on a computer screen; the print is tiny!

    • I don’t think that we ever had a Famous Barr or B Dalton’s here in Vermont, just some of the local stores, Walden and Barnes and Noble.

      As far as e-readers, I’m rather indifferent. It’s a delivery system, but one dependant on electricity, but there’s quite a lot of selection there. Still, I like browsing the books on a shelf.

  3. walden books near me closed last year, but they put a huge barns and noble in its place, so i suppose it doesnt really matter as long as there is a big bookstore around. Although i did like walden, i just liked having a bookstore.

    • I like Barnes and Noble over Borders. Much better store. But yeah, any store that has a good selection is a good place to go, when it comes to books.

  4. It started with our smaller bookstores, the ones with character and charm. When Barnes and Noble came in, they went out. And now Waldenbooks, and B. Dalton. sigh. Will the e-readers force them all out, including Barnes and Noble?

    Well, for now, good-bye Waldenbooks. I’ll miss you at my mall.

    Gloris
    http://www.gloriadelia.wordpress.com

    • Part of this move is because Borders was consolidating to their larger stores. Honestly, I don’t go to bookstores for the ambience or the staff, I’m there for the books, and I find that at the larger stores. That being said, the smaller stores such as Waldens don’t hold all that much charm, unless you actually know the people there, and some customers do. The places with charm and character are the independant ones, which are always fun to browse through. I don’t think that the larger stores are any better or worse, they just have a bit more. What I really dislike is somewhat oppressive management and sales instructions.

  5. I remember, back in the early 70’s, the Waldenbooks I went to in NYC used to give a small brown and white bookmark with every book. I miss that store.

    • There’s a store here, Bear Pond Books, that gives away a little bookmark when you buy a book. They’re really neat, with an ink picture of the store on it, against a solid background. I really like those. We used to give away bookmarks, but we haven’t in the past couple years. Shame.

  6. Waldon got me started on decades of reading military history back in 1970 with a little $3.50 book that showed me that the Japanese had dozens of warplanes that were not Zeros.

  7. I worked at the Walden Book Store in the Swansea Mall (Swansea, MA 02777) in the early 2000’s and I enjoyed working there. I appreciated my co-workers (Linda!) and was excited to be able to check out current titles from Best Selling Authors while I was at work. I love to read!

    Tim Smith was my manager and he was strict but fair. He was a few years older than me (I was about 20 at the time) and I appreciated his Irish Temperence; He made sure that I read and understood the company’s Policy Handbook.

    I enjoyed working at Walden Books and READING er…STOCKING the Books. I enjoyed performing the duty of looking up ISBN’s (a book’s serial number)on the computer for both Telephone Customers and people who came into the store and wanted to order or hold books for a determined amount of time.

    Since I never owned my own Full Library, (I’ve been working on that; I should start playing the lottery!), working at Waldenbooks was a great learing experience and introduction to new books.

    The Walden Bookstore that I worked at is now under a different corporate name; Borders Express (obviously, Borders,Inc.)

    I haven’t shopped there in a while…maybe I will…soon. I just have to get used to the changes. Hmmm…

    • You know, I LOVED stocking books. The section perfection thing, I’ve always enjoyed, putting things in the proper order, and I did a lot of that as we closed. It’s a weird thrill, but I enjoyed that.

      I too, am working on my own library (750 thus far), and the bookstore didn’t hurt that habit, what with a good discount and the ability to order a lot of things, without shipping. Sigh.

      Yep, a lot of Waldenbooks became Borders Expresses, but ours remained the same for some reason.

    • That’s understandable. I’ve always chalked that up to the corprate and franchise nature of bookselling, where most bookstores are the same. Barnes and Noble got the ambience right, I think, but Borders/Waldens really hasn’t.

  8. Pingback: The Future of Bookstores « Leah's Thoughts

  9. Yeah, they’re definitely going to be missed. But eventually Malls in general will be but a memory, an idea fading into the ether.

  10. They axed the Waldenbooks in my small town years ago. I worked there part time. Now out town has no book store at all and the nearest town with one is forty miles away.

  11. Very Good Blog, I have three points. #1 It’s fantastic to hear about how you loved your work and workplace. You don’t hear that to much anymore now days.
    #2 It’s always great to look back but we must move ahead to grow, or we become stagnant.
    #3 Books will always be printed, maybe not in the quantities we do now, but there will always be enough demand to have books printed.
    Besides, without books, what would all the lawyers put on all those bookshelves to make themselves look smart?
    Bankruptnooption.

    • Yeah – there’s a livejournal community of Borders employees that I joined when I was annoyed at the company, but I got rid of it as soon as I saw just how negative and out of porportion that people blew out their annoyances to. I had a lot of specific issues with Borders, but I did enjoy the job.
      Books will be here to stay, I think, either in printed form or ebook form. I’d be happy with either, I think, but I do love a good bookshelf loaded up with paper.

  12. I remember going to both Waldenbooks and B. Dalton Bookseller as a child and teenager. Every major mall in Atlanta had at least one of them. There was also a store called Brentano’s.

  13. Even though the Waldens and B. Daltons have buckled under the weight of the mega B&N/Borders, the small used book stores in the area are flourishing. There are several in the immediate area that I love.

    • That’s a good point – I really like used stores, and our B&N has a good selection of used books, but the place right across from where I work, Northfield Bookstore, is absolutely fantastic – they’ve got a ton of books, all over the place, and I usually end up walking out of there with a new book in my hands.

  14. As a former employee of Super Crown before they went under, you have my condolences. Your memories brought up some similar fond ones for me.

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