Now that Borders has totally collapsed and the economy is still totally in the shitter and nobody likes to read books anymore anyway, the most foolish thing you can do right now is open up a bookstore. Or at least, that's what people keep telling Robin Tidwell.
Nonetheless, exactly one month from today, on October 1, Tidwell and her husband Dennis will be opening All on the Same Page Bookstore at 11052 Olive Boulevard in Creve Coeur, about a mile down the road from a soon-to-be-shuttered Borders. All on the Same Page will carry a mixture of new and used books. And books only, Tidwell emphasizes. Not puzzles. Not board games. Not stuffed animals.
"Borders was too big," she says. "They had too much of everything. I was waiting for them to start stocking toothpaste. I'd go in there and think, 'Good Lord, are you a bookstore or a Wal-Mart?' I think people are ready to go back to basics and start buying local."
In honor of that return to basics, All on the Same Page will feature books by local authors, books on local subjects and books by new writers released by independent publishers.
And what of Amazon, the juggernaut that stocks everything and delivers it fast?
"I hate to say it," Tidwell says, "I really love Amazon. I'm a very good Amazon customer, though I don't buy a lot of books. But the pricing is good and the shipping is great. But I think people are starting to get a little bit tired of buying everything online. They want to get out, but they don't want the big-box experience. It's the whole back-to-basics."
Tidwell, a freelance writer and blogger, is a passionate reader; her personal library contains 1,000 books and she says she's read them all at least once. Her husband, by contrast, opens a book and falls asleep. Last year, he bought her a Nook in order to cut down on her book collecting -- when you move a lot, as they did, books are an encumbrance -- but she dislikes using it.
One evening in late July, the couple was idly chatting when they came up with the idea of opening a bookstore. It seemed like a great idea; Dennis was working 50- and 60-hour weeks at a local discount store and hating it. Both had owned businesses before, though only Dennis had retail experience.
"We talked," Tidwell recalls. "Then we made dinner. Then I created a website." It was Dennis who suggested they open October 1. "I told him, 'I'm holding you to it,'" Tidwell says. "When I see a good idea, I don't talk it to death. I want to see it done."
Never mind that they had just bought a house and now, after financing the store, are "in debt up to our eyeballs." Tidwell was a single mom for six years; she knows about cutting back and doing without.
Now she's mired in an endless to-do list, which will culminate in a grand opening celebration, also on October 1. She's working on finding a local author to headline the event and thinks she has one, although she won't say who it is until the writer has made a definite commitment: "I will say, though, that I was dancing around my house the other day."
Meanwhile, opening a bookstore has taught her an important lesson about social networking: "Never post 'Big announcement coming soon' on Facebook. People kept asking, 'Are you pregnant?' And I'm like, 'I've got three grandkids! Why would I want any more kids?'"