The Book House, which has been doing business in a St. Louis inner-ring suburb for 27 years in a 150-year-old, three-story Victorian house, has issued an urgent call via Facebook and on its Web site for assistance to the local community, as well as to its customers everywhere. According to Michelle Barron, the store’s founding owner, plans are in place by a developer who recently purchased the property to tear down six “long-term, family-owned businesses” on the street, to build an industrial storage facility. Barron says that she was informed Thursday by the city of Rock Hill and by the developer that demolition will begin in July. The developer wants her and her books out of the house in June, although she has not yet been given a firm date by which to vacate the premises.
“We don’t have a place to move to, or the money to move,” Barron told PW. “We don’t know what to do.” Barron is urging store customers and other store friends to call Rock Hill’s city hall, the developer, local media outlets, and “anyone who you think might be able to help or cares about our bookstore.”
It’s not just about having to move to another location, Barron says. “This building is inextricably linked to our business. People love the look and feel of this old house.” The Book House stocks 200,000 titles or 350,000 books in the store; 40% of them are new and 60% used. The Book House also lists another 80,000 titles on its website. “We’re packed to the gills,” she said, “It’s overwhelming. I might just put it all on the Internet and quit.”
According to Barron, matters are made even worse because the bookstore has been doing especially well the past two years, since a Borders store closed nearby. She reports a 20% increase in revenues in the past year, and has had to hire four more staffers. Barron intended to hire another bookseller this summer. The store has also beefed up its events programming, with author appearances scheduled throughout the summer.
Developer Bill Bowman, of Great Northern Land Co. in Michigan says that “absolutely no plan has been made on that house,” and that the company has not “submitted any plans to the city” regarding the property.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure she stays in operation,” Bowman said, in a voice mail message, adding that options include moving the building housing the store to another location, or else moving the store into another building across the street.
The St. Louis Independent Bookstore Alliance, of which the Book House is a member, intends to have a presence at a May 8 Rock Hill city board meeting, during which Great Northern is scheduled to present their project proposal for the property.