Arts & Entertainment, Real Estate, and Retail

Bookseller closes chapter on profitable store

February 10, 2014
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Bookseller closes chapter on store
The co-founders of Schuler Books & Music, Cecile Fehsenfeld, left, and her husband, Bill, sit together at one of their stores. Courtesy Schuler Books

A bookseller is closing a profitable store to reduce its risk and re-allocate resources.

Schuler Books & Music said recently that its Walker store, at 3165 Alpine Ave. NW, will soon be closing its doors for good, along with its Chapbook Cafe.

A store-closing sale, offering 25 percent off all books and 50 percent off all gift merchandise, will begin on Feb. 14. Café and restaurant equipment and certain fixtures will also be sold.

Higher lease

The reason for the closing is that the store is at a point in its lease where it would have to make another 10-year commitment to the space, and the cost would be quite a bit higher than it is right now, said store owner Bill Fehsenfeld, who co-founded the store in 1982 with his wife, Cecile.

“We were there for a decade,” Bill Fehsenfeld said. “It was always profitable . . . but re-committing at higher costs would be too risky a move.”

Overall health

The right thing to do for the future health of the business — which operates stores in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Okemos — is to let go of the Walker store, which showed marginal performance, Fehsenfeld said.

Fehsenfeld said some of the store’s eight full-time staff will be able to move over to the 28th Street store, Schuler’s remaining store in the area,  but for the 12 part-time staff, it will be a different story.

“While we regret having to close the Alpine store, it has had its challenges, including difficult traffic patterns on Alpine Avenue and a lack of visibility from the road,” Cecile Fehsenfeld said. “The Alpine store has always done a lower volume of business than our other three locations.

“Strategically, this will give us an important opportunity for re-direction of resources into new growth areas, which will ensure the future strength of the company as a whole.”

Downtown closing

The Walker store closing comes about a year after the closing of the Schuler Books in downtown Grand Rapids.

Bill Fehsenfeld said the downtown store was “an experiment.”

“We were never positive that was going to be a viable store,” he said.

“Stabilizing” industry

Although the market for print books has changed, Fehsenfeld said it’s been fairly stable recently, something that Schuler was adjusting to.

“It’s actually very stable right now,” he said. “It went through a number of years where there was a shift as people adopted ebook reading. Over the past couple of years, that’s been stabilizing, and it’s too soon to tell for sure. A certain portion of the market will stay with print books.” 

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