Downtown will feel loss of bookseller

Filed under: News |

When the Chinook Bookshop closes on June 15, downtown Colorado Springs will be losing one of its most recognizable retailers. What effect the closing will have on the downtown business climate is uncertain.

“We have a vibrant, pedestrian downtown, and without a new bookstore, it will hurt,” said Richard Skorman, owner of Poor Richard’s Bookstore at 320 N. Tejon. “Chinook was an anchor to other kinds of businesses downtown such as shops and restaurants. It will be a hard thing to replace.”

And while replacing the 45-year-old landmark at 210 N. Tejon St. won’t happen overnight, the leader of the Downtown Partnership said the closing’s effect on attracting shoppers to the city’s center shouldn’t be that bad.

“Being an anchor business there for so long definitely implies that the store generates pedestrian traffic,” said Beth Kosley, executive director of the partnership. “(But) the store’s loss won’t stifle pedestrian traffic to an alarming degree.”

Dick and Judy Noyes, who opened the bookstore in 1959, said that for several years it has been difficult to compete with larger chain-owned bookstores and online book sales. And after four-and-a-half decades, both would like to retire.

Kosley said she believes the Noyeses will help to make the transition as smooth as possible. “Judy Noyes has been on the board of the Downtown Partnership forever and she is very much in tune with our goals to try to stem the tide for retail erosion downtown,” Kosley said. “We know the Noyes will do what they can to position the space/building so that they can try to honor that goal if that’s possible.”

However, Kosley did say that the closing “is a sad day for downtown.”

Skorman, other downtown booksellers, neighboring merchants and customers echoed that sentiment.

“It’s a tremendous loss for downtown and the whole community,” Skorman said. “The Chinook has really been the independent bookstore of choice for local people where they can go and have a personal relationship with the owners and the people who work there.”

But in today’s business world that model is having a harder time competing, he said. “It’s sad that we’re losing that,” he said. “The independent, service-oriented businesses are struggling, and the national chains are taking over. Independent bookstores are certainly the victim of that.”

Skorman said Poor Richard’s serves a niche market, discount books, and his store doesn’t suffer as much from the big-chain competition.

“Our books are all discount ones, and we don’t sell any new books that compete with the Barnes & Nobles and Borders,” he said. “However, people are finding new opportunities to buy used books over the Internet, and that hurts us. Our business has been flat. We too haven’t significantly increased business or grown as much as we have in previous years either.”

Adrienne Wells and John Denton said they’ll miss having a large bookstore downtown at which to shop. For them, Chinook was convenient.

“I’ll have to go to other downtown bookstores or venture outside of downtown to the larger chains to find what I’m looking for,” Wells said.

Marianne Aldrich, owner of The Book Broker, 119 E. Bijou St., said her store will be affected by Chinook’s closing as well.

“On a personal level, we’ll miss them a lot,” Aldrich said. “Chinook has brought people to the downtown area for years, and it has been very positive for us to have them there. They have sent us a lot of business over the years when they don’t have a book or it’s out of print. We’ve always appreciated that, and tried to return the favor when we didn’t have something in stock.”

Since The Book Broker specializes in used and out-of-print books, Aldrich said the store hasn’t felt much of an impact from the chain bookstores.

“The bigger bookstores don’t really overlap with our business,” Aldrich said. “It’s more of a positive thing that we profit from when people are looking for used books. However, it’s harder for new booksellers. I see why the Noyes’ made the decision to close.”

Laszlo Palos, general manager of Terra Verde, which is next door to Chinook at 208 N. Tejon, said the staff will be sad to see the bookstore close.

“They’ve been great neighbors, and we’ll miss seeing the Chinook bags coming into our store,” Palos said. “It will create a change for the area, but there are many marketing, street and aesthetic improvements coming up that will help the downtown area. Starting in June, there will be a free shuttle running down Tejon Street somewhere from Colorado College to past Colorado Avenue sponsored by the Downtown Partnership.”

Palos said that the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s marketing plan that touts downtown should help minimize the effect of losing such a well-know retailer.

“There are so many upcoming improvements, I would hope pedestrian traffic will grow stronger, more diverse and vibrant,” he said. “We wish Dick and Judy and the 22 employees of Chinook and their families well. We have a lot of respect for them, but know change is sometimes inevitable.”

Dick Noyes said that his New Year’s resolution was to “to survive and continue to do what we do well, which includes full service, personalization and special ordering.”

Monday, however, the Noyes decided it was time to try something else.

“It has been an extremely rewarding experience this past 45 years and we are extremely grateful to our customers and staff for their support,” he said. “But we are in our 70s, and although we are both in good health, we’d like to make time for less demanding pursuits.”

- Jan.Mowle@csbj.com