Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The end of another bookstore

Source: Canaday's Book Barn Facebook page

A beautiful bookstore is preparing to close its doors here in southcentral Pennsylvania. The owner of Canaday's Book Barn in Carlisle announced that the store will be winding down its business in the coming months. There are different and complex reasons for the success or foundering of any bookstore, of course. Each real-life tale is unique. But I think there are some thoughtful and distressing points to be taken from the closing of Canaday's.

I'm sharing here the note that Ted L. Canaday posted on his bookstore's Facebook page two days ago. It's a detailed summary of the end of a bookstore and, as such, something that shouldn't become a Lost Corner of the Internet. If you're anywhere near Carlisle (a little west of Harrisburg), maybe you can get to Canaday's this summer. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Here's the website and the Facebook page.

Ted's post:
Canaday's Book Barn Liquidation Sale in Carlisle, Pa.

Everything must go! Books 50% off thru the end of July!

An Amazing Collection of Antiquarian, Out-of-Print, Collected, Distinctive & Rare Books!

Well Worth the Trip!!

It is with sadness that we must close the store that has been our labor and love for the past 15 years. A dramatic decrease in customers and the growing tendency of visitors to treat the store as a museum has made it impossible for the Book Barn to continue to support our family. We hope that you will visit and take advantage of the sale. It will help our family and hopefully provide you with a little treasure of your own.

Please pass along notice of our sale! A personal note or plea is recommended when forwarding, otherwise most items are never opened or read.

Below is a copy of the Press Release distributed by the family. It provides insight into the demise of the Book Barn.

Local Bookstore Latest Victim in Amazon's Relentless Drive to Change America's Buying Habits. Liquidation Sale Begins on Amazon Prime Day.

What a difference a decade makes. Ten years ago Canaday's Book Barn in Carlisle, Pa. celebrated the grand opening of its new and bigger store in a completely renovated stone barn offering over 70,000 old, out-of-print and rare books. Now, owner Ted Canaday will oversee the liquidation of this collection of books that he lovingly curated over the past 20 years. Because of the precipitous decline in in-store customers over the past two years and the tightening margins associated with on-line sales, Canaday's Book Barn will join other brick-and-mortar retailers in Carlisle, like Old Navy and Pier One Imports, that have not been able to survive the change in consumer's buying habits that has been shaped by on-line giants like Amazon.

As a Marine Captain and book lover serving in Japan in the mid-1990s Canaday became one of Amazon's first on-line customers. He even received a mouse pad that Amazon gifted to charter customers after their first year in business. Amazon built their business by developing an on-line marketplace that showcased the diverse offerings of independent booksellers. Canaday joined the Amazon seller ranks following his 10 years service in the Marine Corps and the opening of his first bookstore in Midtown Harrisburg. Business was good both in-store and on-line. The success he enjoyed allowed Canaday to move his store to and renovate the 200 year old barn from which he now operates. With seven times more square footage he was able to expand his selections and create one of the best browsing experiences on the East Coast.

But then came the 2008 recession and the rise of social media. Despite a soft economy and an ever-growing list of distractions pulling consumers away from books Canaday was able to adapt and survive. However, it had become increasingly difficult for the business to support a middle-class existence for his family. Amazon had purchased Abebooks which was the primary marketplace for antiquarian books. This together with Amazon's aggressive move into the “print-on-demand” market for out-of-copyright books and subsequent changes in product placement on their website decimated the out-of-print and antiquarian market. Independent sellers were squeezed ever tighter with each new internal or systemic change to the Amazon selling platform.

Amazon used books as a springboard to expand into other markets and as a means to influence customer's buying habits. Amazon's free shipping for orders over $25 gained popularity and provided the catalyst for Amazon Prime membership. Without even knowing, people were shifting their purchasing allegiance from Main Street to on-line retailing dominated by a few massive multinational corporations headquartered in Seattle and San Francisco. The result has been a “retail apocalypse” for local brick-and-mortar stores nationwide. Tens of thousands of middle-class business owners face financial ruin in the unprecedented redistribution of market share and wealth to the “super platform” providers.

Local communities suffer as profits are sent out-of-town, store fronts sit empty and the tax base crumbles. Amazon's vision, increasingly seems to be a world where most people's labor is superfluous, and where customer's can have Apple's Siri or Amazon's Alexa order groceries delivered by a drone from an automated warehouse. The future will be grim for the dispossessed. It may be to late for Canaday's Book Barn. Only a miraculous outpouring of good will in the form of book purchases could save the store, but perhaps those reading this will be reminded to patronize their local businesses before it is too late.

Canaday's Book Barn will start their liquidation sale on Tuesday, July 11th, Amazon Prime Day. A 50% discount on all books in the store will be offered through the end of July. In August, Canaday will begin offering increasing discounts each week until all of the books are gone. A “Go Fund Me” campaign has been established to allow those wanting to help the family, but who are unable to physically participate in the sale. Use https://www.gofundme.com/canadays-book-barn-sale-family-fund to contribute.

Canaday hopes to raise enough money from the store liquidation sale to save his family's home from foreclosure and to give the family a cushion on which to survive until Ted can find and take advantage of any new opportunities that arise. The alternative could result in bankruptcy, the loss of his family's home and a fall from the middle class for the family of four. Perhaps he will be forced to seek employment as a “picker” in Amazon's huge warehouse distribution center just 5 miles from his home. This could likely result in an Amazon press release touting their commitment to hiring veterans.
Here's one other passage. The enticing description for potential bookstore visitors on the Canaday's website:
"Old bookstores are best enjoyed by leisurely browsing. For this reason, we hope you can plan to spend an afternoon. We have over 75,000 volumes covering just about every subject.

"The bookstore resides in a historic limestone Pennsylvania Bank Barn built in 1800. The original architectural features of the barn have been retained and highlighted, blending harmoniously with the fine selection of old and antiquarian books. Leather volumes feel at home between hand-hewn chestnut beams, 18-inch-wide oak floor planks and 2 foot thick stone walls.

"The barn is heated by a turn-of-the-century antique pot-bellied stove salvaged from an old railroad station. Even so, standards of heating from that era don’t quite meet modern expectations. We recommend a good sweater (and sometimes a hat or gloves) during the colder months, so that you may better enjoy your browsing. Lighter clothing is recommended during the 'Dog Days' of summer, especially if you will be browsing in the loft."

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