Longtime readers of this column may remember that my wife and I moved to Myrtle Beach originally to open a bookstore.
I think it was about a hundred years ago. 1988? Close enough.
We toughed it out for about seven years, then sold it, then, out of guilt, helped the new owners close it. Your classic lose-lose situation.
We took a few bookcases, a few books, some souvenirs and a lot of memories, many of them fond.
Now I learn that if we had just held out for another 20 years or so we could be getting some help. We'd be thin as broomsticks from lack of food, but maybe we could make it yet.
A story in The New York Times said several independent booksellers are clinging to solvency by asking customers for donations.
They've tried about everything else to fend off Amazon and the megastores (yes, I'm talking about you, Barnes & Noble), not to mention ever-expanding competition for people's spare time.
Over the years, the independents have built in-house espresso bars, hosted members-only lunches with authors and sold cards, toys and other non-book items.
Nothing new about that last one. We did the same, you know, about a hundred years ago.
These of course are pretty big stores themselves, mostly located in larger cities with a fairly solid customer base.
They did not have to rely on three months of tourists looking for a cheap sand-proof paperback to help shield them from the sun. OK, I'm sure many of the books actually got read.
According to The Times, Adobe Books in San Francisco raised $60,000 in donations when it was hit with a rent increase.
The Spellbound Children's Bookshop in Asheville, N.C., collected more than $5,000 when it asked customers to help move to a new location.
And Books of Wonder in New York City raised $50,000 last fall after pleading that the recession had poked a hole in its financial ledger.
Oh, I guess that in the end I'd have problems asking for donations to stay afloat. Thousands of businesses are forced to close every day. And ours was a business. A noble business, I thought, but still a business, not a charity.
Still, it does say a lot for independent bookstores -- and the loyalty of their customers -- that people would help them survive with cash donations.
I notice that no one ran to Lehman Brothers' rescue.
Contact Bob Bestler at email@example.com.