Radcliff bookstore closing after 35 years

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Electronic readers changing business landscape

By Amber Coulter

Technology may have killed a local bookstore.


The Bookstore on Lincoln Trail Boulevard in Radcliff is expected to close in June. Owner Jerry Brown said he had a couple hundred customers, but he has lost about 10 or 20 percent of them and about half of his sales during the past year and a half.

Customers have told him electronic readers likely are to blame for declining business because owners can download books onto them.

Brown thinks that’s true. One woman told him she received an e-reader for Christmas and wouldn’t be into the shop as often.

“She didn’t realize that was breaking my heart because you look forward to seeing people,” he said.

Brown understands that e-readers might make sense for heavy readers because they are cheaper and more convenient than buying each book at a bookstore. He’s not upset with customers who stopped shopping at his store, but he can’t continue operating without their business.

His business is based largely on the atmosphere of cushy armchairs, free coffee in the lobby and a friendly chat at the cash register.

“We just try to make it as relaxed as we know how to make it,” he said.

Brown, who has been in business 35 years, said he also knows what most of his customers like to read so he always has those authors and titles on hand.

“That’s what I love about the business,” he said. “It’s a one-on-one relationship with a lot of fantastic people. Readers are thoughtful, empathetic, compassionate. They’re just great people to deal with, and I enjoy that.”

Judy Vowels of Flaherty said she has shopped at The Bookstore for 15 years because Brown is good about helping customers and ordering items he doesn’t have in stock.

Also, she and Brown like many of the same books, and they discuss them and recommend titles to each other.

Vowels said she prefers the comfortable, friendly atmosphere to larger stores where she doesn’t know any of the employees.
She understands why Brown chose to close the shop, though.

Brown said he tried to avoid closing through measures such as selling non-book items at discounted prices.

He said some shoppers using e-readers might decide they don’t like them as much as traditional books, but his bills won’t wait for his former customers to return.

“Once you lose that business and have a lack of people coming in the door, then you just really don’t have a choice,” he said.

Large stores, such as Walmart and Kroger, also have made things hard on local bookstores because they often sell books at a loss to attract customers to buy other items at the store, Brown said.

Another reason business is suffering might be the changes at Fort Knox that has shifted a lot of jobs there to civilians, Brown said.

He has one of the largest military book sections in the state, maybe the country. Those books have moved much less since recent mission changes at Fort Knox.

Brown, a former Radcliff city councilman, said he is skeptical about whether workers taking new jobs at Fort Knox are spending money in Radcliff.

He said he and other Radcliff business owners think many of the newcomers brought by base realignment are spending their money in Louisville and other nearby cities.

The books at Brown’s shop, which has been his dream since he was an avid reader in middle school, are discounted 25 percent. The sale likely will escalate as the planned closing date approaches, he said.
What’s left will be sent back to publishers or sold online, Brown said.

Susan Webb, a student at Eastern Kentucky University, visits The Bookstore when she comes home on break.

She was sorry to hear that the store is closing.

“That’s so sad,” she said. “I love this place. It’s the only place I can go for used books and cheap books without going to Elizabethtown.”

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746. Jill Pickett contributed to this story.