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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Border's closing a loss to downtown Saratoga Springs

Note: This blog post was accidentally posted onto a different Saratoga staff blog -- The Document Library -- on Feb. 22. It still exists there, and now it's here as well.

I am bummed about Border’s closing the store on Broadway in Saratoga Springs. I was lulled into the false hope that a store that always looked so busy would surely not be a victim of the corporation’s bankruptcy.

My family has done its part to support the store throughout its decade or so on Broadway. My husband, an avid reader and buyer of books and CDs, broke down not long ago and joined the new super duper Border’s rewards program that requires you to pay a fee to enjoy deeper discounts. It turned out to be a good deal.

This past weekend, the vultures were snaked around the almost the entire first floor, through the magazine section and practically out the door, to get their lousy 20 percent off. Hello, everyone, where have you been?

You can talk the talk about how great it is to have a vibrant downtown. But you have to reach into your pockets, too. That goes for all the other shops, locally owned or chain, that combine to make for such an appealing downtown.

I remember when the site of the Border’s building was a defunct fast food place called the Red Barn, and the building was indeed a fake red barn. For a while it was the home of Pope’s Pizza, before their move to Washington Street. There was some controversy at the time about razing the ugly old barn and whether the two-story brick structure would fit in. Of course it fit, and it was a vast improvement over the fast food joint.

Border's hasn’t been a perfect bookstore; it didn’t do enough, for instance, to carry and push books that were being favorably reviewed in the New York Times. That was a marketing error, in my estimation. But you could usually find what you were looking for, or the friendly staff would help you find or order it.

No question about it, this is a tough time for book sellers. The Lyrical Ballad on Phila Street will continue to be a hidden treasure for pre-loved books. But it will be sad to not have a popular bookstore on Broadway. Border’s has been more than a bookstore, it’s became a downtown landmark and gathering place. There have been some rumors around town that Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vt., was looking at Border’s. Wishful thinking.

Vacant spaces come and go on Broadway, and most of them don’t stay empty for long. I hope that will be the case with Border’s. That’s a big building on a prominent corner to be empty for an extended time.


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