Loss of plucky Bibelot lessens quality of life

Oases: Bankrupt local book chain nurtured writers and gave region's readers a quiet refuge.

March 13, 2001

YOU CAN BUY books at one of the superstores or online.

And if you were just looking for books, you could get them for less at any number of places. But what a foreshortened view of books and book-buying.

What if you want a quiet moment or two in the sunlit stacks at Woodholme or Canton or Cross Keys, where the local chain, Bibelot, has operated over the last six years?

What if your idea of book-buying goes beyond typing Amazon or BN into your Web browser? Do you think of trips to the library or the bookstore as adventures, opportunities to connect with other minds?

Do you savor the society of silence seekers moving quietly along as you are, eschewing conversation lest it interrupt the mood?

Now in bankruptcy proceedings, Bibelot provided venues for those nourishing and sustaining interludes. The owners provided a comfortable chair or two. You could take your book (after paying for it) into the adjacent coffee house or out to a table on the patio.

But there was more. You could have a tour of Baltimore's Sugar House with a trace of mystery - and a reading by the author of the book.

With a little planning, you could find not only the books and the atmosphere, but the authors at the Bibelot of your choice. Woodholme Press, founded by Bibelot, published local writers and gave them a platform.

In its too-short, happy incarnation, this company with the sophisticated name was on its way to becoming much more than a store - a community institution, a cultural preserve.

How can such an enriching part of our lives suddenly fall away, slide into the grim category of business failure?

Few of us are able to say much about why such ventures don't succeed. We can only grieve.

Yet, because we read, we accept the view that cities are engines of ideas. That includes the multidimensional Bibelot.

We dare to hope that some way can be found to revive what is about to be lost.

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