Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Going Out of Business in New Canaan

The New Canaan Book Shop, which used to be in the middle of New Canaan’s business district, arranged its non-fiction books by alphabetical order according to title, on shelves you’d encounter as you walked in the front door. And because of the store’s location, virtually everybody who shopped in New Canaan had to walk past it, which made it very convenient to stop in.

I remember this because between the time I signed a contract with Yale University Press to write This Fine Piece of Water, in the summer of 1999, and when it finally got published, in May of 2002, I would occasionally go into the bookstore and find the place on the shelf where my book would be displayed.

Then in April of 2002 a sign went up announcing that the bookstore was going out of business. The owners were a divorced couple, and one of them apparently decided that the best way to cause trouble for his spouse was to force the store to close (or so the employees said).

A week before my book came out, the place shut down for good.

Sometime later a new book store opened in town in a new building in a different location, close to the train station but separated from the rest of the shops in downtown New Canaan by an intersection with lots of traffic turning different ways at different times, making it a pain in the neck for a pedestrian to get across. The rent was also extremely high, even for New Canaan, a merchant with a shop nearby told us.

Elm Street Books never did very well. Last summer the owner of R.J. Julia, a successful bookstore in Madison, Connecticut, took over. She began to promote books heavily, bringing in big-name authors for lectures and book-signings, often in conjunction with the local library, where posters announcing the events would be set up near the main door. I was in the library on Saturday, though, and noticed that there were no posters. Today the New Haven Register reports that R.J. Julia has decided that the rent in New Canaan is too high to make a living selling books, and Elm Street Books will shut down in the middle of March.


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