The music stopped playing last week at Bookstar in Mesa when the sound system and intercom were disconnected. On Thursday, the store at 1457 W. Southern Ave., was silent even as sales were rung up, and then it closed for good.
The Mesa Bookstar is the second of the Valley’s four Bookstars to bite the dust within the last year. A store near Paradise Valley Mall in east Phoenix closed earlier. But the Mesa Bookstar's departure also is another blow to the west Mesa area near Fiesta Mall, which is struggling to find new life and direction.
Toys "R" Us recently left the area, and Target is razing the site to build a store there — a rare perk to an area that has been seeing more businesses leave than arrive. The fate of the two surviving Valley Bookstars — at Town and Country shopping center in east Phoenix’s Camelback Corridor and in Scottsdale Pavilions in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community — is unknown.
A factor probably will be whether Bookstar's parent company, New York-based Barnes & Noble, opens more of the competing bookstores that bears its company's name.
“There are no immediate plans to upgrade or close those stores,” Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Carolyn Brown said of the Bookstars. “But when the opportunity arises, we open a newer store with all the amenities — the Starbucks cafe, Barnes & Noble Junior children’s department and the music departments with (high-tech listening stations).”
While the bookseller is not aggressively phasing out the Bookstar chain or its even-smaller sibling B Dalton, the company is closing the smaller stores when it finds nearby sites for Barnes & Noble stores, Brown said.
Employees of the closed stores are offered positions in Barnes & Nobles stores when possible, she said.
After the first Phoenix Bookstar closing, the old phone number referred customers to the parent-branded store at Desert Ridge Marketplace, several miles north. A Mesa Barnes & Noble is planned for early 2004 at Val Vista and Baseline roads, about six miles east of the departed Bookstar. A Barnes & Noble at Chandler Fashion Center is even closer.
And west Mesa book-buyers who don’t want to wander too far afield for reading material have other options. A Borders superstore and the Waldenbooks at Fiesta Mall are within walking distance of the departed Bookstar.
But for Pegi Jones of northeast Mesa, who was browsing Bookstar's aisles for gifts on Thursday, the new locations aren't close enough.
"It's kind of sad. I'll really miss this place," said Jones, who shopped at the store even more frequently when she lived at nearby Dobson Ranch. Brown said there are less than 20 Bookstars nationwide and 630 Barnes & Noble stores.
While bookstores have suffered declining sales from the sagging economy and competition from online merchants such as Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, the world’s largest bookseller, reported that June sales in stores open at least a year increased 10.5 percent when compared with June 2002 sales. Even excluding the bottom-line boosting “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” which debuted that month, same-store sales were still nearly 5 percent ahead of last year.