Birmingham Borders to Close After Company Announces Liquidation Plans
Close of busy Birmingham store follows Bloomfield's Barnes and Noble. Chamber president says he hopes empty storefront is filled quickly.
Book and other media buyers in Bloomfield will soon have to travel a little further to get their literary fix.
Borders announced Monday afternoon that it plans to sell the company to a group of liquidators, effectively closing the company's 399 stores, including the bustling store in Birmingham on Woodward Avenue.
“Whenever a business goes out of business, it’s a sad day,” said Joe Bauman, president of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce. “But when the whole corporation goes out, there’s really not much that can be done.”
The Ann-Arbor based Borders Group had been trying to find a bidder for the company since announcing bankruptcy in mid-February. Borders has 26 stores in Michigan, including one in nearby Beverly Hills at 13 Mile and Southfield roads.
“Following the best efforts of all parties, we are saddened by this development,” Borders president Mike Edwards said in a statement Monday. “We were all working hard towards a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time … have brought us to where we are now.”
Borders filed for bankruptcy Feb. 16 and announced the closure of 200 stores across the country, including stores in Utica, Dearborn and Grosse Pointe.
Since then, the bookstore chain has been negotiating a possible sale of the entire chain or most of its stores. Borders assigned the opening bid in its auction process to two liquidation firms — Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group — after a proposed takeover by the Najafi Companies was rejected by creditors last week, according to USA Today. The deadline for additional bids was Sunday and an auction Tuesday has been canceled.
The U.S. Bankruptcy Court is expected to approve the back-up bid from Hilco and Gordon Brothers on Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reports. Liquidation could begin at some stores by Friday with a phased rollout scheduled to end in September.
Customers mourn store closing
After the Birmingham store closes, both the city and it's nearest neighbors will be without a major bookstore. Bloomfield's Barnes and Noble on Telegraph Road shuttered last year, and the nearest national chain store is on West Bloomfield on Orchard Lake Road.
Birmingham Patch readers on Facebook bemoaned the decision Monday afternoon as "very sad," with book blogger Megan Shaffer asking, "Perhaps we will see an indie bookseller in the future?"
"We don't need more storefronts closing," Carie Burgan wrote on Facebook. "I see the Beverly Hills/Birmingham store reopening as something else, but the Birmingham store is specialized, pricey real estate. Suppose I won't be renewing my Plus Rewards."
Despite the news, the Birmingham store was busy Monday afternoon, with many customers not even knowing the store was set to close. Two of those regular customers were Alan and Linda Wandrei, from Pleasant Ridge.
"We come here a couple times a week," Alan Wandrei said. "We're the people who have been trying to keep the stores open."
The couple said they buy mostly books but were browsing the DVDs Monday afternoon. "This is terribly sad," Linda Wandrei said.
"We like coming here," Alan Wandrei said. "To lose a special community place this is really sad ... You can go to places like Amazon, but it's not the same."
Mike Holloway, from Clawson, agreed, noting the closure of any book store is bad for the community.
"Not a lot of people check out the book stores now," he said. "If you close anything that helps the people, that's sad."
Borders employees in Birmingham were not able to comment Monday.
Store closure reflection on the industry, not Birmingham
Bauman said if the city lacks a bookstore, it’s less of a reflection on Birmingham and more of a reflection on what’s happening in the book publishing industry, specifically the rise of electronic books and decline of brick-and-mortar bookstores.
“The whole business has been revolutionized,” he said. “Mike Edwards, their CEO, even alluded to that … He called it the ‘e-reader’ revolution.”
The closure of the Birmingham Borders leaves big literary shoes to fill, said Matt Church, assistant director of Baldwin Public Library.
"We're certainly disappointed the hear Borders is closing down the street from us," he said. "But I hope this will encourage people to check out the library as an option."
While Edwards pointed to e-books for Borders' demise, Church said physical books remain just as popular at the library.
"We've seen a huge increase in the e-book checkout and that's definitely an area of growth," he said. "But our circulation numbers aren't showing that people aren't interested in print books."
Certainly, Bauman said, the move isn’t a reflection on the Birmingham store, which he calls a popular “gathering place for residents” that hosts everything from concerts and study sessions to poetry slams and book signings.
The Birmingham store is a popular landmark for authors traveling through Metro Detroit, including literary heavyweights Brad Meltzer and Elmore Leonard. This week, the bookstore is scheduled to host former Birmingham resident-turned-writer Susan Whitall and Grosse Pointe native Megan Abbott.
“It’s unfortunate because bookstores have become more than just a place to buy books,” Bauman said.
Bauman said the timeline for the eventual closure of the Birmingham store was unknown, but he hopes a new tenant will be identified quickly for the building.
Borders is neither a member of the Chamber of Commerce nor the Birmingham Principal Shopping District.