News

Palo Alto Borders bookstore to close

Landlord envisions future use for the space, including glass atrium over courtyard

Palo Alto's Borders bookstore will close by the end of September as part of the liquidation of the national chain, a spokeswoman said Monday.

The Ann Arbor, Mich., company said it will close its remaining 399 stores.

The staff was told of the liquidation plans Monday afternoon.

Spokeswoman Mary Davis said she had no specific closure date for the Palo Alto venue, located at 456 University Ave. in downtown Palo Alto, but that it will be by the end of September.

Borders' Palo Alto landlord, Chop Keenan, said he's considering various options for the space, including a glass atrium over the open courtyard.

"We'll see what the market tells us to do," Keenan said.

Keenan ran through several options, including a front-to-back tenant for the portion of the property facing University Avenue (including the courtyard and store space that connects to the rear parking lot) and a separate tenant for the interior former theater space, with an entrance facing the rear parking lot.

"If I can find a two-story retail user for 23,000 square feet, that's a good thing," Keenan said.

"But retail is a tough business these days. Palo Alto is uniquely robust, but everywhere else I've got retail -- and I have a lot of it -- it's tough."

Another option would be to put retail on the ground floor and office space above, he said.

"I think what we don't want to happen is for the thing to sit there empty."

Keenan said he recalled being "a bit of a cause celebre" when he conceived of the idea, nearly 20 years ago, to convert the old Varsity Theatre into a bookstore.

"I hate to lose the book category, but time marches on," he said.

Borders Group President Mike Edwards, unable to find a suitable buyer for the company, which was in bankruptcy, said Monday he was saddened by the liquidation.

"We were all working hard toward a different outcome, but the headwinds we have been facing for quite some time, including the rapidly changing book industry, eReader revolution, and turbulent economy, have brought us to where we are now," Edwards said in a statement.

Shoppers browsed books and magazines and tried on reading glasses at the University Avenue store Monday afternoon, with little hint of the news from corporate.

Buyers stood in line as three cashiers rang up sales. Several customers said they'll miss having a local Borders. Philip Dah, who walked out of the store with a children's book, said he particularly appreciates the store's selection of bargain books. He said he frequents the Palo Alto store to pick up gifts for his nephews and nieces.

"The store closing will be a blow," Dah said.

Buck Staber, who was sitting in the Border's cafe, said he comes to the University Avenue store about twice a week to work on his laptop.

"It'll definitely make things inconvenient," Staber said, referring to the store's closure. "I don't just come here for the Internet. I also come here to buy books, records and CD's."

Stores will begin liquidation sales Friday, Davis said.

Palo Alto Chamber of Commerce President Paula Sandas said the store will be missed.

"Borders has been a great retail attraction for our downtown and will be sorely missed by those who love browsing and buying books," Sandas said.

"The ultimate liquidation of this retail giant marks the passage of the demand for hard copy books. First Internet technology and now electronic reading devices have changed the way people buy and read books."

— Chris Kenrick and Gennady Sheyner

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by The-World-Is-Going-Digital
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm

The publishing industry trade publications, and various on-line blogs, have been carrying the odd story about Borders not being able to find a buyer for a month or so now ..

Today, Amazon announced another Kindle first, as well as recently announced its own tablet offering, due out in the fall--

Amazon Starts Textbook Rental Program For Kindle:
Web Link

The publishing world is quickly gravitating towards being more digital than analog (in this case--paper) .. Netflix last week announced a split in its pricing structure .. setting the stage to eventually phase out its rent-by-mail/brick-and-mortar operation.

It's just too expensive for publishers to keep doing business in the analog world.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2011 at 6:27 pm

I hope that the building will be restored to some type of theater or concert hall.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Arts_supporter
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 7:45 pm

I agree that restoring this somewhat unique property back to a theatre or concert hall venue would be a wonderful asset to the community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by books for all
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 8:14 pm

It would make a wonderful place for another library!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 18, 2011 at 8:17 pm

"I agree that restoring this somewhat unique property back to a theatre or concert hall venue would be a wonderful asset to the community."

"It would make a wonderful place for another library!"

And who would pay for this?????


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Say-Goodbye-To-Paper-Books
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 18, 2011 at 8:21 pm

> It would make a wonderful place for another library!

That's nuts, particularly because there are millions of books on line:

books.google.com


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PAFreePress.com
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 18, 2011 at 9:05 pm

It would nice to see it return to its old glory. The last movie I saw their was Papillon (1973)staring,Steve McQueen,Dustin Hoffman.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nope
a resident of Duveneck School
on Jul 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

"It would make a wonderful place for another library!"

too close to 3 other libraries

North Palo Alto already has more than its fair share

Bring back the Varsity, thats about as realistic as a new library. ;-)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by its a joke
a resident of Escondido School
on Jul 18, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Suggesting it become a library was a joke. Can't you recognize a joke?
jeez.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mukund
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 18, 2011 at 9:31 pm

At first, I was a little disappointed by the news of this closing, and what feels like the end of an era of mega-booksellers.

I was wondering, what's going to replace these mega-bookstores? A return to stuffy libraries with noise restrictions and no food/drinks? Everyone sitting at Starbucks zoned out on their electronic devices? Independent hit-or-miss bookstores whose owners vary between the friendly and the overtly hostile/racist?

Disturbing, unsettling, but perhaps time for a new era?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 18, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Palo Alto needs another David Packard to convert it back to a theater.

Steve Jobs, are you listening?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 19, 2011 at 12:50 am

The Varsity Theater was so great. Is there a theater niche it can serve though? Already we have the wonderful Stanford playing older movies, and the Aquarius for the offbeat or foreign movies, which though fun is pretty hard to sit in though a whole movie in. Broken uncomfortable seats, high prices.

Perhaps we will have to make it a porn theater, like the old Paris theater.

If I could I would make the Varsity a documentary theater and have discussions at the end of each movie. With two aisles, the right aisle red the left aisle blue. That way all the people who yell and scream at each other here online could get to know each other and maybe have an opportunity to get more physical! ;-)

I liked Borders, but it had its problems. It was the place I went when I had to burn some time on University. Guess now I'll have to go to the Apple store.

Someone needs to figure out a kind of business that creates a community and gets people to treat each other like human beings. What is happening to Palo Alto anymore.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2011 at 6:27 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"What is happening to Palo Alto anymore."
Palo Alto is evolving.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 19, 2011 at 6:48 am

Peter Carpenter-you express a concern about who will pay for a library in the Borders building, but you have no problem with Palo Altans subsidizing the airport. Additionally, we know that even if the building ends up as a public library, you will certainly not be paying for it, being an Atherton resident.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 19, 2011 at 9:32 am

I simply asked who would pay for converting Borders into a public? library or a concert hall.

Palo Alto does not spend a penny to subsidize the PA Airport. The airport is a net revenue generator for the city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Shut-It-Down
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 19, 2011 at 10:23 am

> Palo Alto does not spend a penny to subsidize the PA Airport.

Not true!! The City has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years subsidizing this playpen for the local rich and idle. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either misinformed, or engaging in an act of prevarication.

> The airport is a net revenue generator for the city.

Really? Care to provide any documentation as to the revenue generated by this airport?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 19, 2011 at 10:24 am

> Palo Alto does not spend a penny to subsidize the PA Airport.
> The airport is a net revenue generator for the city.

Unless, of course, we subtract out the amount of lost business from crash that took out electrical power for the entire City of Palo Alto last year.

If the airport is such a great revenue generator, then why does the Santa Clara County want to get out of its contract to run the facility?

PAO is a money loser, and only survives because of federal AIP (Airport Improvement Project) grants. Sorry, Peter, you're wrong again.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sara
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2011 at 10:41 am

A movie theater to show foreign films! With, of course, an angel to support it. Am I dreaming?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by commonsense
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:01 am

C'mon Chop - do the right thing and get the Dead Kennedys back in there!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jared Bernstein
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:03 am

Until Amazon starts collecting sales tax, I'm avoiding buying from them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:09 am

"PAO is a money loser, and only survives because of federal AIP (Airport Improvement Project) grants."

And where does the AIP money come from? Every cent comes from airplane fuel taxes and none of it costs Palo Alto a penny. How nice it would be if automobile fuel taxes totally paid for their infrastructure. Or bicycle fees paid totally for their infrastructure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

I need to find all of my Borders gift cards and use them up!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by bunratty
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:13 am

Wasn't there talk of Palo Alto and Stanford University co-owning a downtown theater and proving a home for Theaterworks as a side benefit?Downtown has plenty of parking, lots of wonderful restaurants and is a destination already. If Mr Keenan is feeling angelic, he'd derive tax benefits to offset the profits (or losses) from his "lots" of retail properties he mentions....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Millie
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

With all the stores closing and more to come, guess PA needs to raise our utility rates AGAIN. No need to fix traffic problems.

Anyone been to Santana Row lately and seen how vibrant it is? Lots of stores that left PA are doing just fine there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

The downward spiral of Palo Alto's commercial sector isn't the airport's fault, and it has nothing to do with last year's power outage. It's the economy AND the fact that Palo Alto is not a place that's open to commercial development (to say the least!!!)

The fact that ANYONE is willing to go into retail in PA is amazing (e.g.,the idiotic multiyear Alma Plaza debacle). Who has the money for "the Palo Alto Process?" It's a hostile, multiyear, and hugely expensive process. "Process" is a euphemism.

High rents, a hostile community, an absurd bureaucracy. That mix excludes a lot of businesses. Think of all the retailers who have left in recent years -- or just take a walk and notice the For Rent storefronts. The property owner of the Border's bldg. expects to make money from his property's rent -- he is not a public service.

Make it easier to locate in PA, and then patronize your local stores and they will stay.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:28 am

Well said, neighbor. We hear constant whining about "too much traffic" and "negative impacts on quality of life", yet we want retail, vistors, tourists and the tax dollars they add to city coffers. You cannot have it both ways--yet our city leaders are constantly kowtowing to these people (and some of them end up on the council as well) that use the process to delay any progress in our city


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

Downtown Palo Alto is dying, for all of the above stated reasons. Our 'Palo Alto Process' will guaranee no traffic and no tax revenue. Will the powers that be be happy then?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by narnia
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:48 am

No you are not dreaming. Palo Alto is ready for another "Landmark Theaters". Great company. good business. Landmark is not subsidized by anybody and they restore theaters in city centers. That's their business. I patronize regularly 4 of their theaters and no others (menlo park guild included). But I wonder if MP would survive a Palo Alto Landmark Theaters. Probably not but I certainly would exchange because of a better location.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Ivan
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jul 19, 2011 at 12:03 pm

#Posted by commonsense, a resident of the Professorville neighborhood, 41 minutes ago

#C'mon Chop - do the right thing and get the Dead Kennedys back in there!

Sounds good, I saw Black Flag and Suicidal Tendencies there!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mac Clayton
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 19, 2011 at 1:01 pm

We'll miss you, Borders. The Clayton family spent many happy hours there. You were a gathering place for the mind.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Michael Price
a resident of Woodside
on Jul 19, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I'll miss Borders. It's a sad reminder of evolution. When it opened it was difficult seeing the theatre go. I saw Disney films there as a kid. Then Tuck and Patti as a twenty-something, then my ex launched her book tour there. With Chop owning it I'm reassured it will fall into good turn. He was required to keep the projection booth and theatre part intact. There's hope. My son works at the Century 20 and that variety of screens is part of a modern-day success formula. I can't see it surviving as a film house unless the Packard Foundation or someone like them take it on as a non-profit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by eonomia
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 19, 2011 at 1:36 pm

so they willban ''car dwelling'' ,and ''co incidentally'' the borders closing is a reminder that there may be no economy to support ''housed'' residents who dont like ''homeless''. maybe everyone will be rootless someday. we shall see.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by stretch
a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2011 at 4:50 pm

I hope they make it into another theater so I can use my three Varsity dollars!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sheri
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 19, 2011 at 5:18 pm

How about turning it into a community center to house those who will be displaced at Cubberley? Or a teen center? Yes, I know, the City doesn't have the money to do so.

I would love to have the theater/restaurant combo back, though...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rem
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 19, 2011 at 7:44 pm

rem is a registered user.

YES - YES - another theater

YES - YES - another theater


 +   Like this comment
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 19, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Ahem - was it so long ago that people complained about the big box book sellers running the smaller and local sellers out of business?

But Books Inc, East West Books, the big used book store, all on Castro St in Mountain View seem to be surviving. Will the demise of big box stores take some of the pressure off them? How about Kepler's? Local entrepreneurs can often find a niche a chain manager cannot.

Replacing Stacy's with yet another crummy cell phone chain store can't be undone. But should we mourn Borders?

???


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reader
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 2:30 am

When we moved to Palo Alto a quarter of a century ago, there were three or four bookstores selling new books on University Ave. — Stacey's (which was our favorite), Printers Ink, Stanford Bookstore, and (somewhat later) Borders, plus several used bookstores (Megabooks and others). Soon there will be precisely ZERO — even that pseudo-bookstore Modernbook left for San Francisco. Plus, Know Knew Books on California Ave. is closing in a few weeks. All that will be left downtown is Bell's Books on Emerson, which is very much a niche used bookstore (academically-oriented vintage and rare books). Nothing at all for the general reader.

What a sad turn of events for those of us who like browsing, and not just going online to buy specific books that we already know that we want.

Frankly, Kepler's in Menlo Park is a better bookstore than Borders, and feels (and is!) a whole lot less "corporate", but I found myself buying a lot more at Borders because I was often downtown anyway, and would stop in and browse. Kepler's really isn't near any other places I would normally go (especially at night), so a visit there is planned, and not done on impulse or as part of an errand run or a dinner out. Ditto for Books Inc. at Town and Country, which will be Palo Alto's sole remaining new bookstore.

I also got coupons through the Borders Rewards Club, and used those to get discounts, something Kepler's and Books Inc. almost never offer.

Actually, nowadays I get more of my book fixes at library book sales and garage sales than at bookstores, but they don't have the latest and greatest. So I guess I'll be visiting Kepler's, Books Inc., and Bookbuyer's on Castro Street in Mountain View more often now.

In fact, I was a graduate student in Ann Arbor in the 70s and 80s, and loved the very first Borders store, which was there. (Also, Domino's Pizza, which actually had really good pizza when it first started in Ann Arbor.) That first Borders had a lot more of the flavor of the current Kepler's than of today's Borders, plus a knockout science-fiction book section. (As did our Stacey's here.)

Any thought that this building is going to turn into some sort of a community space or performance venue is a pipe dream. There is no money for the first and no parking for the second.

I would LOVE it if Chop Keenan could entice Kepler's to move into the Borders space; I suspect they'd do better there than they do in Menlo Park because of all the foot traffic passing by, including tourists and students. But I suppose that is beyond the realm of possibility. Barring that, it would be nice to see another bookstore occupy at least part of that space.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 20, 2011 at 9:49 am

@ Reader:

I would be ecstatic if Barnes & Noble were to move into the Borders location. Obviously, this store was doing well. It was one of the locations that Borders kept open last time they were closing stores.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by local gurl
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:39 am

Barnes and Noble, with a real cafe!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jul 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Taxing Amazon would be a big boost to local bookstores, but they are playing hardball and are going to the ballot to get the tax overturned


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 21, 2011 at 5:10 am

What spelled the end for Printer's Inc. and Stacey's was that people would browse the books in the store and leave without making a purchase. They would then go home and order those same books on line for a few dollars less. Those stores could only provide this free book-browsing service without making actual sales for so long before going under.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 21, 2011 at 6:56 am

Peter carpenter, if charging $1 per year as rent for very valuable public land so hundreds of mostly out-of-towners can play pilot while polluting and endangering the public is not a subsidy, the term subsidy must be redefined. This is one of the most awful facets of this country, socialism for the wealthy, who are subsidized by the rest . Not everybody who uses the PAO is wealthy, but in large, it's a playpen for rich boys and girls. The moment someone mentions the possibility of turning the Old Varsity building into a community oriented facility, a rich person from Atherton who is an avid supporter of the airport, a white elephant example of subsidies for the rich is asking where the money will come from.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 21, 2011 at 9:34 am

I don't know what downtown you folks are frequenting but downtown vacancy rates are sub-5% and sales tax revenues are way up. For whatever reason, despite the cumbersome Palo Alto process, retailers do want to be in downtown Palo Alto.

While I am sad to see Borders go it seems likely that another retailer -- maybe even another bookstore -- will move in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jon
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 21, 2011 at 9:36 am

I now buy my bound books from Barnes and Noble on line, and pay the sales tax. Not interested in encouraging Amazon's refusal to be a good citizen.

Oh, and maybe we could use the Borders/Varsity space for a combination bank and restaurant. That would help the neighborhood.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Palo Poco
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 21, 2011 at 12:34 pm

"Wasn't there talk of Palo Alto and Stanford University co-owning a downtown theater and proving a home for Theaterworks as a side benefit?Downtown has plenty of parking, lots of wonderful restaurants and is a destination already. If Mr Keenan is feeling angelic, he'd derive tax benefits to offset the profits (or losses) from his "lots" of retail properties he mentions.... "

Yes, it was proposed (by Stanford) that a complex be built (with Stanford money) on Palo Alto property near Alma and El Camino. Of course, it got buried by then-clueless city management, and we lost a huge opportunity. Stanford is proceeding to build the complex on its own property.

Palo Alto is definitely on the downswing; we are no longer #1 - for more proof see Web Link Notice that there is no mention of Palo Alto. Get used to it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Darwin
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Well it sounds like the downtown library is about to get a little bit busier.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Maybe downsizing's ok
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Just reading PaloPoco's sad prediction about Palo Alto downsizing, it occurs to me that maybe that's not a bad thing. Our supersizing has reduced the quality of life for those who live here. Astonishingly ugly new buildings, no place to park, greed and more more more, nail salons and spas all over the place, how many yogurt shops does a city need, bad roads, crowded schools, supermarkets the size of football fields, greedy overrich developers.
Maybe downsizing wouldn't be so bad. I'm starting to think about it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by James
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 2, 2011 at 3:46 pm

#C'mon Chop - do the right thing and get the Dead Kennedys back in there!

All for it - saw a lot of great punk shows over the years there, and the Rocky Horror was a Saturday night staple.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by theater orcasino
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 2, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Dead Kennedys are dead,why can not we have a casino there?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lynn Scholl
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 7, 2011 at 12:15 am

Perhaps The New Varsity Theater should be restored. A once loved hub in Downtown Palo Alto.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Alysha Crawford
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 29, 2011 at 8:05 pm

Please don't turn it into office space! I'm really sad that Borders closed - I used to go there at least once a week. Bringing in another bookstore would be ideal, there are more than enough restaurants and retail spots on university ave, but no other place to relax and unwind with a good book.
Let's keep the printed-book era alive with a Barnes and noble at least. That way we could have some nice seating area in the bookstore too - I love B&N couches


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