Booked for Murder, which has been operating in a strip mall on University Avenue in Madison, Wisc. for the past 25 years, is closing on May 15, but its 15,000-title inventory of new and used books, as well as the store’s shelving, will be transferred to a 1,500-square foot retail space on Monroe Avenue, in the shadow of the University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium. Mystery to Me bookstore will open its doors there on June 15.
“Although we’re closing, a new bookstore is popping up; Booked for Murder will be reincarnated in a way,” store owner Sara Barnes told PW, “That takes the sting out of it.”
Barnes decided this past winter to either sell or close Booked for Murder to return to Minnesota to care for her ailing mother. After a story ran in the local alternative newspaper on February 25, Barnes was contacted by UW-Madison vice-provost Joanne Berg, who offered to buy the store’s inventory, bookcases, and tables. The deal was finalized last week. Berg decided to open a new store rather than assume ownership of Booked for Murder because, she told PW, she “wanted [her] own thing” in a more pedestrian-friendly location.Plus, she said, she “wanted to take murder out of the store’s name. It’s too violent in today’s society. The word ‘murder’ might turn some families off.”
Berg, 57, who does not have previous bookselling experience, has served as an administrator at UW-Madison since 1987. She is planning on retiring from her position as vice-provost for enrollment management at the end of the summer to focus on her new career as a bookseller. It's something she's always wanted to do, she told PW, saying she feels "more alive now," having made the decision to leave academia for bookselling. She plans to specialize in mystery titles, but to broaden the store’s focus by selling books outside the genre that she thinks mystery readers would also enjoy. She also plans on carrying titles seasonally, such as football books in the fall, since she’s “so close to the stadium," where UW-Madison’s Badgers football team plays.
“There’s all sorts of opportunities to do some push marketing,” Berg said.
Further east, another independent bookstore, The Bookstore at Lighthouse Place, located in an upscale outlet mall in Michigan City, Indiana, on the shores of Lake Michigan, is closing its doors at the end of May, although its co-owner, Betty Pellegrini, says that date “might be extended” as the store sells off its remaining inventory at a 30% discount, which will increase to a greater discount as each week passes.
Pellegrini says she and her husband, Tom Pellegrini, are going out of business after 24 years of selling books primarily because of a decline in customers caused by the shift towards digitalization. Readers, she notes, are increasingly using The Bookstore as a showroom for titles that they then purchase online for their e-readers. The Bookstore does not have a Web site; nor does it sell digital books or e-reader devices.
“This is a busy shopping center, the parking lot is full, but I have no customers in my store right now,” Pellegrini told PW, adding that the store’s size – 3,500 square feet – is “part of the problem." “I’m sure that Michigan City can support a bookstore,” she said, “But it has to be a smaller store.” The nearest bookstore to Michigan City other than The Bookstore is a Barnes & Noble 25 miles away.