Chinook Bookshop, a literary institution in downtown Colorado Springs, Colo., will close its doors for good on June 15, 45 years to the day co-owners Dick and Judy Noyes opened the bookstore. According to Noyes, 74, he and his wife, "who is a lot younger" (72), are closing the store "because it's time to retire."

The store has long been famed for its well-trained, knowledgeable staff, its comprehensive selection of books and maps and its expertise in fulfilling special orders for patrons. In 1975, Town & Country magazine called Chinook the "best bookshop in the USA."

The Noyeses also have been deeply involved in the industry. Dick Noyes was a member of the American Booksellers Association board from 1966 to 1975 and was ABA president in 1974 and 1975. Judy Noyes used to write articles and book reviews for PW.

"From day one, we've believed in quality; we've believed in excellence," Dick Noyes told PW. "We wanted to be the best bookstore in the country. We have strong views on quality. We want to go out when we're on top."

The couple opened Chinook in 1959 with $25,000 in capital. The store's inventory initially cost $18,000 and was housed in a 1,900-sq.-ft. space. Other than the two owners, there was only one-full time employee during the first year, when the Noyeses grossed $60,000. Ten years later, they had sales of $500,000.

At its peak, about five years ago, the store carried 70,000—80,000 titles in an 8,300-sq.-ft. space, had 30 employees and sales of $2.5 million. But in recent years, Dick Noyes said, the store was forced to downsize: "9/11, Enron, the economy—we had to cut back. We cut staff. In 45 years, we've never missed a payroll; we cut back on staff, inventory and advertising instead."

The expansion of superstores in the '90s also affected the store's bottom line. Dick Noyes noted that the store is "surrounded by chain bookstores now: there are three Borders and two Barnes & Nobles in town."

Chinook's inventory has dropped to about 45,000 titles and the store had sales of $1.5 million last year. Besides the two owners, there are 24 employees, many of whom have worked at Chinook for more than a decade. One employee has been with the store for 34 years. Two just retired after 37 and 33 years, respectively, working at the bookstore.

"Most of all, I'm going to miss the staff," Dick Noyes commented. "We're very close. It sounds cute, but we're like a second family. I'll miss the customers, too. Some patrons first came in as kids; now they're in their 40s. I'll miss the staff first, the customers second. The secret to our success is the staff. We have no clerks at Chinook; we have professional booksellers."

"I'm in shock," Lisa Knudsen, executive director of the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Association, told PW. "I really thought that Dick and Judy would go on forever. Chinook is one of our bedrock stores. I feel as if one of the underpinnings of MPBA has been knocked away. It's going to take a while to adjust. The store has the stamp of their personalities: I guess it sounds right that the store would close when they decided to retire. It's not just a regional loss—it's a national loss."