NEW ALBANY — In 2004, Randy Smith started a new venture to fill a void in New Albany's cultural offerings.
As he sees it, locally-owned shops where patrons can peruse shelves upon shelves of both the latest trends in writing and established literary classics are one of the key indicators of quality of life in a city. Being able to have such a business in the heart of a city's downtown offers a sort of quaintness to the entire experience — something that can't be imitated by larger corporate bookstores occupying corner chunks of malls across the country.
New Albany had been without a "full-service" general bookstore since shortly after World War II. That changed when Smith got to town and opened Destinations Booksellers at 604 E. Spring St.
But after nearly 16 years in business, Smith said it's time to say "so long."
“Good things end,” he said in a release. “Our city had gone without a generalist new bookstore for 57 years when we came here, and we had a great run.”
Over the next couple of weeks, Destinations will be liquidating its entire inventory, including kitchen items, display fixtures and other equipment. Books will be heavily discounted, with prices being cut anywhere from 50 percent to 90 percent.
Smith made sure to thank the employees who have come and gone over the years.
Since 2009, the building has shared space with restaurants, including Taco Steve and El Rico Taco. That role will continue into the future, with Smith noting that a new eatery will move into the space once Destinations vacates.
No specifics were given on the new occupants, but Smith referred to it as "one of the region's most-beloved restaurants" in the release. Work will begin immediately upon completion of the close-out sale, with the new restaurant expected to launch in March, according to the release.
Brick-and-mortar stores of all kinds took a hit over the preceding decade's retail apocalypse. Many consumers opted to utilize advancing online shopping capabilities.
The rise of Amazon dealt a major blow to large book retailers like Borders. The major casualties resulting from the online mega-store's omnipresence, however, opened a door for independent bookshops.
Some figures show a 50 percent increase in the number of independent bookstores in the last decade. Even with that bump, it's estimated that just 2,500 independent shops are currently in operation.
For such a small club, any loss will be missed. It seems to be more of the end of a chapter rather than the entirety of the story, though, as Smith said he will continue to search for a new niche in the book world.