It’s official-Borders has filed for bankruptcy. They’re going through Chapter 11, which means they have the opportunity to renegotiate debts and restructure the company. Whether or not it works, the company that emerges from this process isn’t going to be the same Borders. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if it helps them survive long-term, but it does make me mourn the Borders I knew and loved.
I’ve talked about this a few times before, but I worked for Borders on and off in college and in management after college. If you walked up to me seven years ago and asked me about my future, I would have sworn up and down Borders was it for me. I loved working for a bookstore chain, I loved the company, I loved my job. Things were changing at Borders even then, and many of the reasons they had to enter Chapter 11 today were already brewing…but rather than sit here and dissect every mistake Borders has made, I thought it would be nice to share some of my favorite Borders memories, and in the comments I’d love for you to share yours!
Here are my top 5 favorite Borders moments:
1) I loved meeting all different kinds of customers, and seeing what people shopped for, etc. Sometimes you had a few weirdos though. My favorite was when I was walking the store one evening and saw a gentleman do a full body shudder. I stopped and asked if he was ok, and he explained he was searching for the spirituality section for tips on getting rid of ghosts. According to him, a 5 foot tall female ghost was attached to his leg (hence the body shudder). Definitely one of the odder moments!
2) This one’s bittersweet, in light of their bankruptcy, but I really admired how Borders handled closing the Framingham, MA store. I was the sales manager at the time, and Borders spent a great deal of time and effort placing employees in other stores and making the transition as smooth as they could. Somewhat ironically, they boasted that Framingham was only the 5th store they’d closed in 30+ years, it was something they only did in cases of last resort, etc. Of course, fast forward 6 years and they’re closing 1/3 of the company, but it’s an insight into the way this company wasn’t always like that.
3) The Harry Potter Book 6 release was unlike anything else I have ever experienced in my professional life. We had a packed store full of people, many dressed in HP outfits, and it was a blast. If you’ve ever been to an Apple product release, it was sort of like that, but with more sorcerer hats. My favorite memory of that night was standing on the information desk, holding a megaphone and looking out at a sea of people, all excited about buying a book. Even before the Kindle it seemed like an uphill battle to sell books, and seeing so many people packed into our store was awesome!
4) None of the stores I worked in were huge, but we occasionally landed somewhat famous authors for signings. Sarah is still jealous that I was able to meet Jodi Picoult and Alice Hoffman! While many author signings would be very small, it was always fun to see big crowds turn out for their favorite authors. My personal favorite was when Robert Kurson, the author of “Shadow Divers” spoke at the Framingham store. I never really get starstruck, but I really loved that book, and had a blast running his author signing. I still have my autographed copy of “Shadow Divers”, and no matter how much I pare down my book collection I will never part with it!
5) Finally, my favorite Borders memory comes long after I left. You can take the girl out of Borders, but you can’t take the Borders out of the girl…so when Sarah and I were on our second date, and needed to kill time before dinner, I suggested we hit the local Borders. We sat in the travel section looking at maps, and Sarah showed me where she had lived in Virginia, and I showed her where I’d lived in Boston. We could have had that date anywhere, but we had it at a Borders, and it’s something neither of us will ever forget!
Now it’s your turn! Do you have any happy stories of Borders? What about other bookstores that have come and gone? Share your favorite memories below!