Frank Spruill and his store manager, Sarah Itzel, will be closing… (Photo by Phil Grout )
When Frank Spruill first looked into franchises more than 30 years ago, he found three options: fast food, automobiles or books.
"It was a no brainer," Spruill laughed this past week, standing inside his Little Professor Book Center in Eldersburg.
Soon after deciding to pursue the book market, he opened Little Professor in the Carrolltown Center in 1977, where it was located until six years ago, when it moved to its current location at Liberty Station Shopping Center on Liberty Road.
A much harder decision was made this year, however — Spruill announced that the he would be closing his book store in June.
"The business isn't there anymore," Spruill said of his decision. "The sales started dropping off when the economy went in the tank."
The advent of e-books are another factor of the store's demise, Spruill said.
"The seller and ultimate customer don't need a middle man," Spruill said of the e-book market. "E-books just exacerbated it.
It was a combination of the economy and changing technology, Spruill said — but perhaps the economy was the biggest factor for so many of his customers.
"For the most part, books are a luxury," he said. "There are some (books) you have to have, but you don't have to eat them or put them in your gas tank. It would be the first thing to go. There are other things more important."
Spruill said that since it opened, Little Professor has strived to be a "general family book store," offering both new releases and "back stock" — books that are popular across generations, and sell well all the time. The store also filled its space with a variety of "sidelines," he said.
"Plush animals, cards, calendars, magazines, trinkets ... things women like," Spruill said.
Throughout the years, the store developed a dedicated following of customers.
"We see some several times a week. It's amazing. We tried to have something for all of them," he said. "We had very loyal customers. Obviously, not enough of them."
With the closing of Locust Books in Westminster a few years ago and Waldenbooks in TownMall last year, Little Professor's closing leaves A Likely Story Book Store in Sykesville among only a few book stores in the county — and the only such store in South Carroll.
Debbie Schuller, owner of A Likely Story, isn't exactly pleased with the title, however.
"It is very sad to see another small business go. It kind of goes against (the idea to) shop locally," Schuller said. "There are more opportunities (with small businesses). We both can order anything, any time.
"We have to change the mind set" of customers to support local business, she said. "It is sad Little Professor isn't able to hold out."
A Likely Story will honor all Little Professor buyer cards, coupons and birthday cards, Schuller said.
"We're only two miles apart, not that far," Schuller said of the stores. "Hopefully people won't think they have to go out of the county."
Spruill isn't sure what his next step will be.
"We did very well," Spruill said. "We had a pretty good run."
Little Professor Book Store (410-795-8535) is located at 1532 Liberty Road, No. 110, Eldersburg, and is scheduled to close June 16.
The store is having sales to reduce its inventory, but Spruill said any unsold books will be donated to charity, likely involving veterans or the military.