I said goodbye to an old friend last night. We’ve had a long and sometimes rocky relationship and even broke it off a couple of years ago, but I’ve remained loyal to the end. Sadly, this dear friend is meeting its demise, and the kids and I said our goodbyes last night.
I’m referring to Borders, of course. After about five years of struggling sales, etc. the company has gone bankrupt and will be closing all stores within weeks. Liquidation sales – complete with garish signs – started at all stores this moring.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (I know at least a couple of you have), you know that I worked for Borders for a long time. More than 11 years, in fact – one year at a store and more than 10 years at the home office in Ann Arbor. (And in the years between Borders store and home office, I worked at a Borders “customer store” – Schuler Books – for four years, just for good measure.)
You may also remember that I was laid off from Borders two years ago. So why the loyalty, you may ask? Simple: the people. Oh sure, you always hear, “It’s the people that make working at X company so special.”
But Borders was the real deal. From my very first day as a 23-year-old bookseller to my very last day as a seasoned corporate communicator, I was surrounded by smart, witty, often sarcastic (in a good way), dedicated people who made it easy to go to work every day. From the lowest-paid booksellers and customer service staff at the home office all the way up to the execs, we worked hard and had fun. In fact, Borders employees feel such a connection to each other that more than 4,000 have joined a Facebook that was created TWO DAYS ago for former and soon-to-be former employees. (And there are 2,225 posts already.)
And then there are the actual stores. Adam and I used to go on “dates” to Borders. We’d share a slice of lemon pound cake and a triple-chocolate hot chocolate in the cafe, then we’d browse to our heart’s content. I usually ended up buying him more books than I had planned, but it’s hard to say no when your kid’s begging you for the latest in a favorite book series or some unexpected book that he just has to have. Allie joined us once she got a little bigger (and easier to corral while in the store). I’ve read her many a story while sitting on the chairs in the children’s section. Jenny has been too, but she won’t remember.
If you’ve ever had “your” Borders store, you know how special they were. There’s a reason that whenever I told someone that I worked at Borders, I always heard replies like, “Oh, I just LOVE Borders!” or “My mom has me take her there every time she’s in town.” etc. It was just that kind of a place.
The big kids and I went to our favorite Borders for one last shopping trip last night. (The stores will be open for at least a few weeks more, but I can’t bear to be in them once the “going out of business” signs are posted everywhere.) We had a snack in the cafe – had to make do with a snickerdoodle and juice – stayed longer than we meant to, browsed to our hearts’ content, bought more than we intended, and had a nice but bittersweet time. Adam even found books three and four of a series that he’s been searching for. I found myself reluctant to leave, and was a weepy mess before we got back out to the car, but it was a perfect last visit.
We’ll move on. I’ve got another job (working for my Borders boss, I’m happy to say), we’ll find somewhere else to buy books. But Borders will always have a special place in our hearts.
One last snack (they were out of lemon pound cake, sadly).
Please can I get this one, Mom?
Allie admiring the American girl books. She’ll take one of each, please.
Ah, there’s our Book Boy in true form.