Library closing hurts business at Manor Center

August 23, 1993|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,Staff Writer

Few people come into Kirsch Cleaners on Jarrettsville Pike these days. But manager Nancy Sutton doesn't think higher prices are to blame.

Instead, she points to the Jacksonville minilibrary, which the county closed in February. Since then, traffic is down at all 20 shops in the Manor Center strip mall where the library was located.

"They have no reason to come into this shopping center," she said.

Rick Shapiro, 38, who works at Domino's Pizza, agrees. About five customers came into the shop each day from the library, he said.

"I would watch mothers with children go into the library and come out with an armful of books and then come in here and grab a pizza for dinner," he said. "Now that's business we just don't have anymore."

The minilibrary was one of eight closed in the "Black Thursday" budget cuts of Feb. 11. County officials justified the action because of the library's relatively low borrowing rate.

The closure left the Jacksonville area without one of its meeting places. Many residents found the library convenient to drop off or pick up books while doing errands at the center.

"I was in and out of the library constantly," said Debbie Serra, 39, a Monkton mother of four. "It was easy for the kids to go in the library while I picked up shirts at the cleaners and cards at the card shop." Mrs. Serra said her children checked out about 30 books every other week.

"It will be sorely missed, especially by the children," she said. "Coming to this shopping center isn't a necessity anymore because I can get the services done elsewhere."

Merchants in the strip mall depend on their neighbors for business. Most patrons started their shopping at the Safeway on the strip's north end, then worked their way down to the bike shop at the south end, stopping in the library.

"We've lost a lot of kids as customers because they used to come to the shopping center and check out a book and then come in and sit down to get their haircut," said Heidi Hildreth, a hair stylist in the Hair Stop salon. "Now there is nothing for the kids in the shopping center."

Ms. Hildreth said 90 percent of the salon's clients were families.

"We quit going to any library because the little one close to our home closed," said Beth Asdourian, 30. "Now we only come into this shopping center for specific things, like getting bikes fixed. No more browsing at books and in the little shops."

Library patrons now travel 20 minutes from Jacksonville to the nearest library in Cockeysville.

Don Yates, owner of Country Side Flowers and Things, changed his hours when the library closed because "there was no reason to stay open." The library was open until 8 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays. Mr. Yates kept his flower shop open those hours to gain more customers.

"The more business we have in the shopping center, the better it is for everyone," he said. "Over the years, the walking traffic has decreased, and unless people have to come in for a certain convenience that only this shopping center can offer, they go to a bigger place."

Not all of the Manor Center shops are losing business. Encore Books has seen a 15 percent sales increase in the past few months, store officials said.

"It is really sad it closed, but our business is improving because the library closed," Margaret Turett, a clerk, said. "It wasn't the greatest library, but it was convenient and nice for the children."

Elaine Weger, 45, is one of those turning to the book store.

"It is easier to spend $10 for a paperback than being inconvenienced by driving out of your way for a free library service," she said. "I am becoming discouraged with coming to libraries."

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