Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Main Line Independent Bookseller Barely Holds On

Photo credit:  Christopher Smith at Radnor Patch

An independent bookseller in Wayne wonders what the future holds.   (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/27/2011)

Excerpt: For Readers' Forum [no website], an independent bookstore in Wayne, 1992 had as many ups and downs as a good mystery novel.

That's when Borders and Barnes & Noble opened three outlets on the Main Line, slicing the small bookstore's business in half. Before that, the store had been enjoying its best years ever.

"It didn't fall off gradually. It was overnight," said Ed Luoma, co-owner of the store that is as much of an old-time fixture in Wayne as the barbershop with the spinning red-and-white pole a few doors up.

(An author himself, Luoma recalls that time as if it were the first paragraph of a novel. "It was a cold, damp summer; the sun didn't come out. There was not a lot of hot weather, but because it was cloudy it was depressing," he said.)

With the Barnes & Noble in Bryn Mawr now gone and Borders in Rosemont and Wynnewood in their last days after the chain filed for bankruptcy in February, Luoma worries his next chapter may come directly from an Agatha Christie novel, in particular And Then There Were None.

On the Main Line, arguably the wealthiest and most educated enclave in the region, you can find croissants, day spas, luxury cars, designer clothing, nail salons, and sushi almost anywhere along Lancaster Avenue.

Books, not so much.

Readers' Forum is the last place to buy new books, other than a children's bookstore in Haverford.

"For heaven's sake, if Wayne, an area where people, generally speaking, are very educated and able to buy a book now and then, can't support a bookstore, it's sad," said Ann Miller, a former English teacher who stops in Readers' Forum nearly every week.

Two years ago, with the recession in full swing, the store appealed to customers who donated $25,000 to keep it afloat. But now, Luoma, whose co-owner is Al Lewis, says he is draining his personal savings

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