Closing The Books: The Bookie Joint Closing After Five Decades | Features

Posted by Al Parker | October 9, 2021

Jann Norton adjusts her COVID face mask and happily greets some of the first customers of the day at Traverse City’s time-honored second-hand bookstore, The Bookie Joint.

“We have several genres here,” the shopkeeper explains to a visiting couple. “And everything is at least halfway, around 75% cheaper.”

The reason for the deep price reduction is that Norton closes the store at the end of the month. After half a century in downtown Traverse City – owned by Norton for the last 15 years – the Union Street landmark is going out of business. Rumors of the closure have been circulating for a few weeks now, but Norton recently made it official with an announcement on their website.

“It is with great sadness that I am closing The Bookie Joint on October 31, 2021 after more than 20 years as Traverse City’s leading second-hand bookstore,” she writes. “I want everyone to know how much I valued your business and your loyalty. It has been my honor and pleasure to serve you all. Many of you have become an important part of my day. Thanks very much.”

For their customers, Norton has worked hard to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere that is enhanced by thought-provoking stickers, pithy T-shirts and all kinds of music.

“People were singing loudly,” she recalls with a laugh. “You felt comfortable here, at home here. I really wanted people to be comfortable. I’ve tried to treat everyone as I would like to be treated myself. ”

Norton bought the business in 2006 from Shelly Barnes and Bob Hicks, who moved it from its previous home in the Front Street Arcade building to Union Street.

“One day I brought four bags of books to trade and started talking to Shelly,” recalls Norton, who grew up in the Ann Arbor area and visited Traverse City as a teenager. “I told her I was looking for a small downtown store to buy.”

Barnes said she and Hicks had just decided to sell their business. “We agreed on a price and I worked for them for a couple of weeks to get to know the business,” says Norton.

So what was it like to get into a business where she was just an “enthusiastic” customer with little work experience?

“Terrifying,” she says with a smile. But her father had owned small businesses, and she says she was well aware of the work involved.

“I knew how hard a single owner had to work to make it a success,” says Norton, who works seven days a week from May through September. “I haven’t had a vacation since I owned the shop.”

Norton’s decision to close The Bookie Joint comes after about three years when things were “really tight”.

The pandemic caused them to close the bookstore for three months. But even before that happened, she says that book sales were slowing.

Tourist sales decline in September. On the last day of August, she says she only had two sales totaling about $ 12.

“I robbed Peter to pay Paul,” she says. “And Peter ran out of money.”

Norton isn’t the only one experiencing a slump in bookstore sales.

According to Statista, there are around 4,100 independent bookstores in the country. A recent study found that around 20 percent of respondents said they bought their printed books from a brick and mortar store, while 22 percent said they mostly buy online.

According to market and consumer data firm Statista, book retail sales were $ 10.2 billion in 2018, compared to nearly $ 17 billion a decade earlier.

Although Norton is closing The Bookie Joint, she plans to stay in the book business and sell select publications online.

“First of all, I’ll miss the people,” she says. “All of the loyal friends over the years, I really appreciate your support. And we’re not leaving town.

“Traverse City is something very special for me.”

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