It wasn't the usual suspects—the chains, online retailers, or the economy—that forced Susan and David Ekholm to close six-year-old A Compleat Mystery Bookshop in historic downtown Portsmouth, N.H., in mid-January. Instead, Susan told PW, "[I]t was due to family health problems. David's been battling cancer for the past two years." She and her husband also plan to close their online store,, once the inventory is sold.

Although Susan described Compleat Mystery as "our first venture into bookselling and retailing," the store was a success from the start. A few years after it opened in 1995, the Ekholms purchased their building, then doubled their selling space to 1,000 square feet two years ago. Despite the sad circumstances surrounding the store's closure, the Ekholms have been heartened that RiverRun Bookstore will move in come the spring. "Portsmouth desperately needs a general independent bookstore," said Susan. "The last one closed a year ago."

RiverRun is the latest venture of longtime New England bookseller Bob Hugo and Dan Chartrand, with whom he co-owns 10-year-old Water Street Bookstore in Exeter, N.H. Hugo is also the owner of Spirit of '76 Bookstore in Marblehead, Mass., the Book Rack in Newburyport, Mass., and the Andover Bookstore in Andover, Mass. Tom Holbrook, who currently manages Water Street, is the third partner in RiverRun and will be the store's manager.

Holbrook anticipates opening RiverRun by March 1. Given its location on a pedestrian alley near both an independent children's and a travel bookstore, he noted, "We're going to be focusing on trade paperbacks and hardcover literary fiction and nonfiction."