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VOL. 126 | NO. 242 | Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bookstore Asks Patrons To Buy Local

By Andy Meek

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Over the weekend, employees manning the cash registers at The Booksellers at Laurelwood were more than happy to grant discounts to book-hungry buyers who said the magic phrase: Occupy Amazon.

The former Davis-Kidd store is under new management and is now known as The Booksellers at Laurelwood. A ribbon-cutting will be held this week.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)

The independent bookstore, which is holding a grand reopening ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 14, at 4 p.m., gave those customers 10 percent off their entire purchase Saturday, Dec. 10. Buyers who took home $100 or more in books and merchandise and said the phrase got an even sweeter deal – 20 percent off.

“Just our way of delivering a steaming holiday muffin to Mr. Bezos and company,” the store wrote on its blog, a reference to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos and the online giant’s recent offer of a discount to customers who use the retailer’s Price Check app.

Amazon customers get the discount when they visit a brick-and-mortar store, use the app to scan a price, then hop online to Amazon to buy something. That move has drawn the fire of everyone from politicians to average consumers who say Amazon is unfairly rewarding customers who visit traditional stores without intending to buy something.

The promotion by The Booksellers at Laurelwood, though, is about more than sending a message to a giant competitor that continues to draw fire from Main Street over the state sales tax it doesn’t pay in many states around the country, giving it an automatic 6 to 10 percent competitive advantage over traditional retailers.

The bookstore’s message also is an implied one for booklovers throughout Memphis: We’re still here.

Just six months or so ago, the store’s fate seemed destined to mirror that of countless bookstores across the country that have closed shop in the face of unassailable competition from tablets, e-books and retailers like Amazon that can offer new release titles for half the price a brick-and-mortar store does.

In late 2010, the parent company of the store formerly known as Davis-Kidd Booksellers declared bankruptcy. Other stores in the chain were sold to new buyers. Davis-Kidd wasn’t.

As recently as this spring, at least one representative of a liquidation company was inside the East Memphis store measuring the proverbial drapes.

Neil Van Uum, the founder of the former Davis-Kidd’s parent company, left that chain and is now the direct owner of the store, which changed its name and signed a new lease at Laurelwood.

He told The Daily News months ago he would spend the money to improve the store, and visitors to its ribbon-cutting Wednesday will notice the difference already. The layout has shifted, with wider aisles in places.

The store has a new website (www.thebooksellersatlaurelwood.com) and pays heavy attention to its Twitter feed (@Laurelwoodbooks) and Facebook presence (www.facebook.com/TheBooksellersAtLaurelwood).

Van Uum has spent the last several months planning and overseeing a renovation that includes new carpet, new fixtures, renovated bathrooms and an expanded children’s section. The bookstore’s bistro is planning a greater focus on wines and more entrees, in addition to collaborating more with the bookstore through live music and other author events.

“Although the book business faces challenges, we strongly believe in the Memphis reading community,” Van Uum said. “After 26 years, it was clear the store needed a re-investment, and that’s why we are so excited to celebrate our grand-reopening.”

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell will attend to offer remarks and help with the ribbon-cutting.

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