It's a case of, if you can't beat 'em, be acquired by 'em. Borders has bought the assets of Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, which has two stores in Louisville, Ky. The stores will be closed and converted into Borders Books & Music stores. They will reopen in mid-September, when Borders will also open a long-planned superstore nearby in Louisville. The company plans to open yet another store in the area in May.

Borders said it plans to keep Hawley-Cooke's 83 employees. Owners Graham Cooke, Martha Neal Cooke, William Schuetze and Audrey Beach Schuetze have sold their interests and will no longer be involved with the stores. In a statement to the staff, the owners said it was "time for us to yield to marketplace realities and leave the selling of books in Louisville to another entity who can do justice to our wonderful customers."

Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million already have stores in the area. Noting that "the competition is fierce for market share," Melissa Berstrom, spokesperson for Hawley-Cooke, told PW that the philosophies of Borders and Hawley-Cooke are "closely aligned. They put a priority on customer service and maintaining a welcoming atmosphere."

The purchase of an independent bookstore by a chain is highly unusual. Borders has made the move only once before, in 1997, when it bought the Library Ltd., the 53,000-sq.-ft., Clayton, Mo., bookstore that was the largest independent in the St. Louis area. The transition seemed to go smoothly; the store was rebranded a Borders and later moved to a new site near its old one.