November 22, 2008

Discount bookstore open (briefly) at Regency Mall

Move over, Barnes and Noble and Martha Merrell's. There's a new bookstore in town.

This one has an exciting pricing approach: "80% off!" (And, shhhh! It's not advertised, but teachers and librarians will get another 15% discount just by showing ID.)

Regency Mall's new tenant for the space recently vacated by Linens and Things' bankruptcy, and then briefly occupied by Halloween USA, is Giant Book Sales, a "seasonal" retailer that has rented the space "at least until the end of February." It opened Wednesday, and was full of customers this morning.

Our Giant Book Sales store is one of anywhere between 20 and 30 here-today, gone-tomorrow retail outposts around the country, mostly in the Midwest and Northeast, operated by American Book Company of Knoxville, TN. They've sent two managers, Richard Thompson of Vermont and Erik Sczepanik of Texas, to open and set up the space, hire workers and get everything running. The chain specializes in publishers' overstocks -- and apparently in mall space remaindered as well.

What might you find in the cavernous space only half-filled by books stacked on four by four-ft. shipping boxes? "Every kind of book under the sun," says Thompson. "Coffee table books, sports, biographies, mass media paperbacks, a large selection of children's books -- even autographed copies sometimes."

The store started out with 48 pallets, each loaded with 64 boxes of books. "As sales progress, they'll send us more," he said. How long will the store be here? "A definite three months," Thompson said. "Longer will depend on sales." While many of the chain's stores stay open only three months, at least one was open for 18 months, he said.

Although he'd never been to Racine before, Thompson has had a long-time connection with the community. Since he was about 10 years old, he's collected Whitman Books (The Annette Mysteries, Sierra Summer, etc.) published originally by Western Publishing Co. "I have to admit, I was very excited to be coming here."

Even if Giant Book Sales remains at Regency Mall for the long-term, there will still be major changes at the west end of the concourse. For right across the aisle from the new bookstore is Steve and Barry's, the troubled sports apparel retailer that already has announced it will liquidate shortly after Christmas.

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