Encore Books leaves downtown Its other city store was closed June 1

June 29, 1996|By Abbe Gluck | Abbe Gluck,SUN STAFF

Encore Books yesterday closed its second downtown store in HTC a month, taking the chain out of the city entirely and continuing the exodus of downtown's bookstores to the suburbs.

"It's been unprofitable," said Kathy Dolmier, advertising promotion manager at Lauriat's Inc., the Boston company that owns the Encore chain. Lauriat's, which bought the chain from Rite Aid Corp. in 1994, owns 148 bookstores nationally under four names.

Encore's managers said the store, at Charles and Saratoga streets, suffered because its only significant sales occurred during lunch hour.

"We have one rush and that's it," said Don Schenning, Encore's regional director. "It's not like out in the counties where you have a constant flow."

Dave Barrish, an engineer who works at the Mass Transit Administration, down the street from Encore, said he went there often during lunch. Now, he said he will go to a bookstore near his home in Reisterstown. "I just go where and when it's convenient," he said.

On June 1, the Encore at Lombard and Calvert streets closed, saying its rent was too expensive to renew its lease.

The Encore in Wilde Lake Village Center in Columbia closed in September because of weak sales. And, Schenning said, the Encore at the Festival at Riva shopping center in Annapolis may be next, because its location is not central.

The seven workers at the Charles Street store will be shifted to other Encore stores if they wish, Schenning said. But he added that since some do not have cars, they may not be able to travel to the suburban stores.

The employees declined to comment.

Last summer, another mid-size bookstore, Gordon's Booksellers, closed its downtown location at 8 E. Baltimore St. Melvin Gordon, the chain's owner, blamed "changing demographics."

companies have downsized, a lot of them have moved out of the downtown area," he said. "We were no longer getting the same individuals."

Managers of both large and small bookstores said being downtown hurt chains like Encore and Gordon's more than did competition from the industry giants.

"I don't know that we're putting anybody out of business," said Steve Horka, spokesman for Border's Books & Music at Towson Common in Towson.

Schenning agreed. "These large chains operate on such a large scale that if the little stores are losing money, the super stores are too," he said.

Horka says Border's is busy all day, especially after working hours. "A lot of downtown businesses close at 5 or 6 and don't get the evening rush we do here."

The only large bookstore remaining downtown is B Dalton Books, in the Gallery at Harborplace. That store's manager, Susanna Goldsberry, said B Dalton has been busier since Encore's other store closed last month.

The Charles Street space is managed by Enterprise Development Co. in Columbia.

Although Enterprise President Bob Barron said he's "been talking to people," he would not comment on any prospective new tenants.

Pub Date: 6/29/96

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