Borders Bookstore: Retrospective

October 12, 2016

Borders Logo. (PRNewsFoto/Borders Group Inc.)

I still miss Borders bookstore, and I am willing to bet that you do too, dear reader.  Even though the last Borders stores closed on that fateful September day in 2011, the wound is still fresh.  I realize how melodramatic this probably sounds, but I honestly still feel a wave of disappointment whenever I drive past an abandoned Borders storefront.  Yes, Borders was just a bookstore like all of the others, but to me there was more to it than that. True, Borders did legitimately have better deals than other stores such as the epic 33% off coupon that always made my heart jump for joy when it graced my inbox. However, the real reason I miss Borders has less to do with its business practices and everything to do with my memories of my favorite bookstore.

bordersmonroeville

My childhood Borders store location in Monroeville, PA. The orange cones and portable toilet do not do it justice.

As with all nostalgia, the roots of my devotion to Borders grow from my childhood.  I can still remember when they constructed the store in Monroeville, PA.  I must have been around seven or eight years old and constantly nagged my mother (she was not as big of a reader but always supported my bookwormy-ways) to go there almost every weekend. I can still remember rushing to the children’s section with the awesome space themed carpeting and wanting to buy almost everything.  I always checked for a new Clue or Bruce Coville book and remember the rush of excitement when I picked a fresh copy off of the shelf.  The aromas from the cafe and the plethora of like-minded bibliophiles captivated me as well and made me feel like I was in a place where everyone understood each other.  There is a sense of comradeship with other readers that is difficult to explain, but it is almost like we are in on some secret that all of those non-readers out there cannot understand.

borderskids

You remember the space carpet too, don’t you? It was so cool!

I always craved cultural experiences and growing up in southwestern PA, Borders was the most convenient place for me to experience new thoughts and fantasies. Of course I visited my local library but being in a place with new releases made me feel like I had my finger on the pulse of a more creative world.  Borders made me feel like I was part of some artistic/scholarly/high-brow club that was larger than myself.  As I grew up, I spent hours in the store, although soon my interests spread from the children’s section to fantasy, history, humor, and classics.  I also visited the store with friends and family which really made the place seem even more special. To think that Borders was the first place that I experienced The Lord of the Rings still blows my mind.  Where have the years gone?  Even though I enjoyed visiting other bookstores, Borders was always my favorite because it, and the smaller Walden Books/Border’s Express at a local mall, introduced me to the magic of bookstores.  When I moved away from home to start my first real job, the local Borders store in my new town felt like a friendly refuge and helped me to deal with the loneliness and uncertainly of living in a new place.

The news that Borders was closing was difficult for me to hear at the time and I still cannot believe that the chain is gone.  I’m grateful that other brick and mortar stores are still around, and I hope that they will thrive despite the eBook revolution.  I enjoy eBooks, but nothing is the same as lounging in the cafe and browsing the shelves in a real-life bookstore with other proud book nerds.  Anyway, here’s to Borders!  Thanks for the books and the memories!

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