Less Than Two Years After It Opened, It's Time To Close the Book on Indie Legacy Books

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Kyle Hall, who handles marketing and promotions for Legacy Books up in Plano, hadn't taken a vacation since the mammoth indie bookseller opened its doors in November 2008. He was ready for his very first on July 25 when, the night before, he got a call from Teri Tanner, who manages and operates the store. She began, "I hate to lay this on you now ..." And then she told him: On August 14, Legacy Books will be no more.

The reason, Hall says: The investors who own the place -- investors whose names he says he does not know, because, after all, it's a private venture -- decided they've lost too much money on the venture. They had been, Hall says, "extraordinarily patient," but the time had come to admit defeat. Today's announcement comes but a few hours after Barnes & Noble's board announced that the chain is on the auction block. These are bad days for brick-and-mortar booksellers.

And it's a shame: Legacy is an extraordinary store -- not just beautiful to look at (indeed, it's currently featured in an exhibit at the Dallas Center for Architecture), but a repository for hard-to-find tomes (and its kids' section is tops in town). I've made countless trips to Legacy Books in the past two years when closer-to-home booksellers came up empty-handed and I didn't have time to wait for an Amazon shipment.

"The thing that kills me, and understand it, is if we could have been the primary bookseller for people who came to us for things they couldn't find elsewhere, we might have been OK," Hall says. "But they came here to get what they couldn't elsewhere, and we weren't a stop when they were just out, ya know, running errands. But I understand their temptation to drive to a chain in their neighborhood."

But the fact is, Hall says, there were just too many issues with which to contend -- chief among them, the location. He says he'd have to delay author signings, like those with Sarah Palin and Paula Deen and Isaac Mizrahi, by several minutes just so people could find the place.

"People got to the corner of Legacy and the Tollway and said they still couldn't find the place," he says. "The other thing they would say, ironically, is, 'You're not that far from where I live in Dallas at all.' I don't thing being north of central Dallas was a factor. We had a lot of business from Dallas."

Then there was the opening date -- in November '08, right as the economy was tanking and people stopped buying books at retail. And, truth is, during my many visits to Legacy Books, the place was seldom crowded -- there were, usually, but a few people strewn about the myriad seating areas or in the cafe.

"My sense of it has been that I knew we weren't making plan, but I thought we were doing well," Hall says. "When people asked me how we were doing, I told them, 'We're doing OK,' and I thought we were. But since we're private, we don't have meetings like that, and when Teri told me we were closing I was quite surprised. I said, 'How much better would we have to do to stay open?' And she shared with me some percentages, and that's when I understood."

But all that said, Tanner's looking to open another indie bookseller sooner than later. Either that, or perhaps she could buy Barnes & Noble.
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