Memories of Borders

August 31st, 2011

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They are almost gone now. Borders stores will soon be just a memory. So I’ve begun going down Borders-memory lane.

I didn’t always need to buy a lot of books at Borders (or anywhere else), since I get plenty of review copies. But somehow my wife Hillary and I always ended up spending a lot of cash there, making liberal use of that discount card.

Borders was a great place to browse and discover new books. I could always amuse Hillary by going to the New Arrivals table and treating it like a kid with baseball cards: “Got it, got it, got it, need it, need it, got it….”

In recent years Borders stores were also frequently venues for Eye on Books interviews. I will always be grateful to the managers who, even while in the midst of preparing for an author and their entourage, always so kindly accomodated me by finding a quiet place (often the manager’s own office) for my interview.

Watching The Jodi Picoult Machine Sign Books

At Borders in Bailey’s Crossroads, Virginia, for example, April Lilley was unfailingly generous. April’s store was kind of Borders’ “flagship” in the D.C. area, the one with the biggest marquee names – Vince Flynn, Linda Fairstein, Barbara Delinsky, Rita Mae Brown, Robert Crais, Steve Martini, and Jodi Picoult, among many others.

(By the way, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Jodi grab a Sharpie and mow down a stack of first editions like a lumberjack attacking a hundred-foot oak. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone autograph books faster – and they were all legible!)

Mark Danielewski

Borders on Wisconsin Avenue in D.C. was a store I visited often, because it’s close to my “day job.” I would often, with the generous help of manager Dan Broeker, meet authors in the cafe. That’s why you’ll hear clanking dishes and coffee-making sounds in the background of some of my interviews – Mark Danielewski, Larry Doyle, Eric Jerome Dickey, Philip Margolin, and Junot Diaz, among others.

A Dead Deer And A Few Minutes With Kathleen Turner

A few other memories:

– Borders at White Flint Mall in Rockville, Maryland. That’s where I interviewed Danica McKellar, and hit a deer on Route 29 on my way home that evening.

– Borders in Columbia, Maryland is where I met Jeffrey Buckner Ford, son of ’50s singing star Tennessee Ernie Ford.  He and Hillary and I all went to dinner afterward.

Michael Oher was among a few authors I interviewed at Borders in Lutherville, Maryland, outside Baltimore. The Saturday afternoon in February that I was there the place was packed so tight I feared an order from the fire marshal. To make matters worse, not nearly enough of Oher’s books had arrived and the staff was left scrambling.

Kathleen Turner- Me:  “Hi, my name is Bill Thompson…”   Kathleen Turner, sounding just like Tallulah Bankhead:  “Hello, Bill Thompson.”  My short interview with Turner at Borders in downtown D.C. was perhaps the only time I have ever just shown up at an author event, without an appointment, in hopes of getting an interview.  (She was exceedingly gracious, too, by the way.)  That store, at 18th & L Streets, is also where I interviewed El Presidente Vicente Fox (with an appointment, thank you),  Dave Barry, and Sarah Silverman.

– Out on Lee Highway in Fairfax, Virginia there was a Borders in a building that once housed a supermarket,  and it’s where Melissa Anderson and I talked about “Little House on the Prairie.”

A Life-Changing Borders Moment

And then there is one more Borders memory I have that has nothing to do with books.

I had just met Hillary in 1997. We had been dating for, perhaps, a week when we decided to meet at Borders at White Flint Mall in Rockville for coffee. I also selected a scone, but being scone-challenged, I found it pretty dry and difficult to chew. Apparently I somehow made a funny face while trying to negotiate that scone, and — Hillary has told me many times — that was one of the things that made her fall in love with me.

We were married two years later.

Borders, I will miss you.

Even your scones.

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Borders Bankrupt, Many Stores to Close

February 16th, 2011

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No one didn’t see this coming. Borders Group Inc. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. About one third of the chain’s stores will close. (Is your local store going to close? Check the list.)

The company says is still very much in business. They’ve set up a separate website ( to guide customers, creditors, and suppliers about what to expect now.

Much has already been written about the “why” of the Borders failure by journalists far more knowledgeable than I about the business side of bookselling, so I won’t rehash all of that here. Just Google it and you’ll find all the analyses — and obituaries — you want.

Continue to the interview > > >

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Washington Post Writes Borders Obituary

January 21st, 2011

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“For many in the industry .. the question is not whether the chain will go under, but when.”

That dismal assessments sets the tone of the Washington Post’s farewell-before-the-fact to Borders. Those who have been following the chain’s troubles will find little new information in the piece, other than an odd aside from company founder Louis Borders:

“Reached in Silicon Valley, where he is now a tech entrepreneur, Louis Borders declined to discuss his namesake’s problems or even whatever fondness he may hold for what’s left of his first big idea. “I’ve been away for the company for a while, and I just don’t want to talk about it,” he said, before quickly hanging up.”

First crediting Borders, and Barnes & Noble, for creating the book superstore — and elevating many authors to superstar status — the Post’s Michael S. Rosenwald then describes Borders’ inability to keep up with the digital revolution. The result: a sad obituary.

“For every reader who can’t stand the thought of not buying books in a bookstore, the economics of the moment – and Borders’s stock price, 83 cents as of Thursday – suggest that there are many more who simply do not care.”

Read the full article here.

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