At 4:10 p.m. on Monday, July 18, Borders Inc. made it official: the business is dead, the liquidators are coming. Yet two hours later, things seemed almost like normal at the downtown Borders, “Store Number One.” A light crowd milled about the new fiction table display at the front, while a U-M student scanned a shelf of DVDS on sale. Here and there, bits of overheard conversation floating among serious faced customers revealed that the bad news had gotten to them, and inside them. “I remember years ago when it was still on State Street,” a silver haired woman said to a companion. “It was such a wonderful store.”
The lone clerk behind the cash register handled a couple of questions about Borders gift cards. “I would try to use them by Wednesday,” he advised. “Technically, liquidators won’t accept cards.” A customer carrying a stack of books looked at him and said simply “Ouch.” “That’s about right,” the clerk said. He urged customers to consider buying “the wonderful Lindt chocolate” on the counter.
Local Borders employees, whether they worked in one of the two (formerly three) area stores were saddened but not surprised of the store’s demise; they’d been preparing for the worst since the company filed for bankruptcy in February. Although last week some employees cried at corporate headquarters on Phoenix Drive, longtime buyer Carla Bayha, referring to the famous “stages of grief,” e-mailed, “Employees have been at all stages from anger to acceptance, but not many were left at denial.”
Asked what she’d missed, Bayha replied, “I will miss being proud of something that was once great, that I helped to build, and that gave full-time, meaningful employment to intelligent adults. Borders changed the culture of this country, and made us a more open and informed society.”
As for what those employees will do next, Bayha says, “Most people get on Facebook these days to share memories, and the more pragmatic are on Linked In updating their contacts.”
She signed her email,
Life After Borders
Thank you Tom, Louis and Joe [the Borders brothers and early Ann Arbor manager Joe Gable] for building the best bookstores in the world!
A proud employee for 27 years
A delighted customer for 40
“Don’t let it be forgot.”