Friday, March 03, 2006

America's Independents v Barnes and Noble/Walmart

Supporters of Corte Madera's independent bookstore, Book Passage, attempted to prevent the 10 year old Greenbrae Barnes & Noble's move to the Corte Madera Town Center, a block away from the Book Passage.

The mayor and town council saw no reason to prevent B&N from moving into the former Marshalls' store and acquiring additional space for a grand total of 27,000 square feet ( making it almost 3 times larger than the existing store). The town council apparently saw no basis in the concerned supporters' claims that the giant chain could put the small indie out of business. This, of course, is not the first time a grass roots movement has attempted to prevent a mega-chain from getting a foothold in a community's pockets.

The Book Passage is a 29 year institution in the area providing much more than books for sale. Its owners, Elaine and Bill Petrocelli, have not given up the fight and are continuing to educate their customers and the community on the importance of independently owned stores and the need for main street advocacy for an area's economy.

For those of us book lovers who support indie bookstores and booksellers, we already know the charm and benefit these bookdealers provide. Nothing beats walking into your favorite book haunt, where the owner and the very small staff know you personally and greet you. The requisite bookstore cat sleeps in the window while relaxing music might be playing as you peruse the stacks. Maybe the owner lets you know of something new in your area of interest that "he's" holding for you. Or, maybe you went there for an author reading, a book signing or another event that is frequently held in the store. You sit down and recognize many friendly faces- and know nearly all the associated names. Indies foster familiarity and comfort for the most part. For example, compare the activities between
Book Passage (author events and classes and conferences, B&N, and your local library. Around my neck of the woods, the library has more events than the nearby B&N, and the B&N store events appear to exactly mirror the library's. While all three might have events, depending on your location, the indie and the library foster a sense of community which a large chain cannot.

For success in beating giant chains, you gotta love Maine! The highly successful, grass roots movement against Walmart in the town of
Damariscotta has spread to other towns. All hail Damariscotta! I don't know about you, but I find the love of local character above money highly refreshing and admirable.

I bet you wondered what the heck Walmart had to do with anything?

Reading list:
How Walmart Is Destroying the America (And the World) by Bill Quinn
The United States of Wal-Mart by John Dicker
The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy by Charles Fishman
The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation by Greg LeRoy
Wal-militia: The Conspiracy of Wal-Mart and the Government: A National Report by Grant Lee
The Case Against Wal-Mart by Al Norman
Up Against the Wal-Marts: How Your Business Can Prosper in the Shadow of the Giants by Don Taylor and Jeanne Smalling Archer
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
The Wal-Mart Way: The Inside Story of the Success of the World's Largest Company by Don Soderquist

Any book mentioned above can be found at your local independent bookstore or by searching at
Bookfinder or ADDALL.

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