|Blue Willow Bookshop, Houston, TX|
Remember the movie You've Got Mail, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? I loved that movie. And yet, I hated that movie. I hated it because, up until that point, I was pretty much oblivious to what was happening to all the little Mom and Pop businesses across the United States. I adored that little children's bookstore in the movie, and cried real tears at the thought of it being forced out of business and replaced by something so huge, cold and impersonal.
Meg's little shop reminded me so much of all the stores that used to be in our neighborhood shopping center where I grew up, Hillside Village -- most of which had owners who lived right there in the area, and who had kids that went to our schools. It was the shopping center where I got my very first job, at a place called Community Sewing Center. The movie got me to thinkin', and I realized those shops had all disappeared, one by one, and been replaced by the larger, glitzier, chain stores that you could now find in every other shopping center, in every other city. It made me wonder when I had grown so blase about shopping in places where no one knows my name.
Soooo, fast-forward about thirty years, and imagine my surprise when we drove up to the Borders Bookstore in south Austin the other day (the only bookstore anywhere near us), only to find it draped with "Going Out Of Business" banners! I got to thinkin' again...about the big malls in Houston that have been torn down recently, because people have grown weary of that whole "mall experience" and want their shopping to be a little more personal. Now "mixed use" developments, that are trying to recreate the aura of a village or neighborhood shopping center, are springing up everywhere.
Then I remembered the charming little Blue Willow bookstore that was near our townhouse there. It has served several generations of book-lovers -- it took a lickin', but kept on tickin'! Wouldn't it be ironic if the tables were about to be turned? What if the on-line book dealers and the popularity of e-readers, which has put the monster stores and their huge overhead expenses out of business, ends up creating opportunities for some small shops who cater to those who crave a more intimate experience? If they ever make a movie about that, you can bet your boots, I'll be there cheering!
P.S. Many thanks to susankmitchell.com for the image above.