BOWIE — The closing of Borders stores in Maryland as the chain reorganizes under bankruptcy leaves large retail space up for grabs and local shoppers disappointed at the loss of a neighborhood staple.
“I use it as my second home,” said Tom Lee, a Bowie resident who had just spent a couple hours in the store at Bowie Gateway Center — among the three in Maryland to be closed — reading newspapers. Lee said he usually comes to the store after working as evening manager for a wholesale food company in Landover.
“I don’t know where I’d go now if they close,” he said.
The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based chain filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, sunk by debt and slowness in adapting to a rapidly changing industry of online book readers.
The 40-year-old company said it plans to close about 200 of its 642 stores over the next few weeks.
In addition to the store in Bowie, Borders will close its locations at the White Flint Mall in North Bethesda and at the Boulevard at the Capital Centre in Largo. The Bowie store has 24 employees, White Flint has 57 and Largo has 35. The company is not discussing specifics of what will happen to those employees, said Donald Cutler, a Borders spokesman.
|Watch video interviews with Borders patrons in Bowie|
The company has 15 other locations in Maryland, including its Borders Express, Borders Airport and Waldenbooks stores.
“These three stores will be wound down over the next several weeks as a reflection of the costs, structure and the viability of the locations,” Cutler said.
Not only will those jobs be shed, but so will 66,900 square feet of retail space. The Kensington store is the biggest of the three to be closed, at 39,457 square feet, and the Bowie store takes up 25,105 square feet, Cutler said. Property managers and leasing managers for the three locations could not be reached.
The oldest of the stores is the Bowie location, which opened in 1996, while the Kensington store opened three years later. The Largo store opened in 2003.
“I’ve been coming here about 12 years,” said Marvin Good, a Bowie resident and private banker who had stopped Wednesday into Borders for a book on ancient Indian laws. Good said the store’s location was convenient and he was able to find books otherwise difficult to find in public libraries.
“Borders just became our favorite, our mainstay, because of this particular location,” Good said. “It’s almost like home, so it’s sad that they’re leaving.”
Borders Group Inc. President Mike Edwards said in a written statement that cautious consumer spending, negotiations with publishers and other vendors and a lack of liquidity made it clear Borders “does not have the capital resources it needs to be a viable competitor.”
The stores will operate normally and honor gift cards and its loyalty program as Borders reorganizes.
The company will receive $505 million in debtor-in-possession financing from GE Capital and others to help reorganize. According to the filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the southern district of New York, Borders had $1.28 billion in assets and $1.29 billion in debts as of Dec. 25.
At its peak in 2003, Borders operated 1,249 stores under the Borders and Waldenbooks names. Some of the company’s loss may be attributed to the rise of online book sales and the growing popularity of electronic books.
“Electronic readers have eliminated the quote-end-quote published readers,” said Tyrone Peters, 63, a Mitchellville resident who runs an e-newsletter and had visited the Bowie store Wednesday. “I think these electronic readers are really becoming a part of our lives. I get a lot of information on my BlackBerry.”
Since Amazon.com introduced the Kindle in 2007 and Barnes & Noble released its e-reader, the Nook, two years later, the industry has boomed with electronic readers. Electronic book sales are set to nearly triple by 2015 to $2.8 billion, according to Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass.