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B&N Picket Continues In Flagstaff
Margaret Jones -- 4/3/00

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, some seven to 20 protesters have gathered in front of Barnes & Noble since it opened in Flagstaff, Ariz., last December. The protesters' visibility is increased thanks to the store's prominent presence at the intersection of Routes 66 and 180, leading into the historic downtown area.

Carrying "Support Local Businesses--End Corporate Dominance" placards, and handing out maps that show how to find local independent bookstores and coffee shops, the protesters have become a familiar store fixture. Some local residents are angry about "big box" retailers' advance into this rapidly growing community of 60,000. The protesters hope to raise awareness about the broader issues of corporatization and to preserve the smalltown character of Flagstaff, a robust activist community at the crossroads of the Grand Canyon, Hopi and Navajo sacred lands and a major university.

"I find it disturbing that communities can't fight the intrusion of these giant chain stores unless they have a legal apparatus behind them, because big corporate transnationals have the legal muscle to sue cities that try to keep them out," said Robin Craig, one of the protesters. Craig and other regulars on the picket line say the drive-by response in blaring horns has been mostly positive.

According to Roxanne George, cofounder of the Flagstaff Activist Network, which coordinates the activities of more than half a dozen local organizations including the Sierra Club of Arizona and the Animal Defense League, the protest is part of a well-organized, three-year-old "End Corporate Dominance" campaign. The organization has also targeted a local Wal-Mart and a new Home Depot. George said FAN will continue to coordinate the protest in front of Barnes & Noble into the "indefinite future," as well as partner with local businesses to create more support for locally owned businesses.

Flagstaff was home to half a dozen independent bookstores before Barnes & Noble arrived, which represented the first major challenge to the local bookstore trade. Rick Swanson, owner of Where the Wild Things Are, a children's bookstore in the historic district, said his decision to close last October was based solely on B&N's move into Flagstaff. Down the street, McGaugh's Newsstand owner, Lillian Wilson, remains optimistic that she'll be able to hold on to her niche downtown. Her sales were actually up in January, though she acknowledges that other local independents are distressed over the presence of the chain bookseller. "The problem is that people who are moving here from other metropolitan areas have this mindset that nobody can give you the service and everything you need unless it's a big chain," Wilson said. "Quite frankly, the opposite is often the case. That's what we've worked on for 21 years."

At least one local politician, councilman Norm Wallen, publicly opposed the opening of Barnes & Noble and Home Depot last year and will not run for office after his term is up in June because there was little political support locally for slow-growth initiatives. "The excessive rate of growth here, both residential and 'big box,' is destroying the character of Flagstaff. After we hit the 50,000 mark, it seemed to send a signal to the corporate world--'Come and get us.'" Wallen claims he can be more effective in statewide slow-growth initiatives once he is off the city council, which "lacked the will to curb corporate retail growth."

"I don't feel we are a 'big box' store," the Barnes & Noble Flagstaff community relations manager, John Harden, told PW. Harden cited the four-month-old store's record of community involvement, which to date included a donation of 200 books to the local Head Start program, various programs with local schools and appearances by some local authors. As for the picketers, he said, "They have a right to be out there."

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Sch nhof's Expands by 50%

One of the oldest foreign-language bookstores in America, Sch nhof's Foreign Books, Cambridge, Mass., recently expanded its retail space by 50% by shifting its administrative functions and overstock to its Central Square distribution center. After renovating the vacated space, the bookstore was able to create a new room that now houses a language-learning section for more than 400 languages. The new space will also be used for readings, signings and book discussion groups.

Zany Brainy Busy Down South

Zany Brainy plans to open three stores this year in Florida and Mississippi. Altogether, it intends to open 25 stores in 2000. The company currently has 103 stores. The two Florida stores will be in Waterford Lakes and Winter Park, both near Orlando, and will open in May and August, respectively. Another Zany Brainy should open in Jackson, Miss., in October.

Borders to Fly into Ft. Worth

Borders Books and Music will open a 25,000-sq.-ft. store at the Chapel Hill Center in Fort Worth, Tex., this September. The store will offer 150,000 book, music, video and periodical titles. It will be the second Borders in the Fort Worth area.

Books-A-Million to Open in Birmingham

Books-A-Million, whose headquarters is in Birmingham, Ala., will open another store there this fall. The new 12,500-sq.-ft. BAM outlet will be in the new Colonial Promenade Tutwiler Farm shopping center, which is under construction. Other tenants in the center include Home Depot and SuperTarget.
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