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The End of Borders: Frank Says Goodbye to his Best McJob Employer

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You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, sales, television, new shops, the recession, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls and getting blasted for Racked for almost two years. Well, we think it's time you got to know him and his quirky-irreverent views on life and fashion even better with his column: Love, Frank. Taking the form of an open letter and always signed with love, Frank will rant about whatever style-related conundrum he encounters in a given week. So buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, it's going to be ? Something.


Image via Racked Chicago

Dear Borders,

Your confirmed demise is really bumming us out. And our hearts go out to the many book-lovers who are about to lose their jobs; and the many other book-lovers who are about to lose their favorite places to couch and browse amongst lattes, imported magazines, potted palms and what’s new in trade fiction.

Once upon a time, yours truly was a Borders bookseller (and music seller, and DVD clerk, and barista). Actually, at a few different stores in a few different cities over the course of a few different years. It was a one of those part-time whatever gigs—starting after high school and winding through a lot of college. But it was also just about the best part-time whatever gig we’ve ever had.

(Not that the competition is stiff—gathering supermarket carts and laboring at garden centers are activities that don't exactly inspire wistfulness.)

There was something about working amongst so many great books and so many fantastic albums and movies that was really satisfying. So much greatness and opportunity and potential at your fingertips; so many chances to share those things—your favorites, the words and music that affected your life in so many different ways—with your customers (who may or may not have only come in looking for Harry Potter). And, in the process, stumbling upon the next book that might change your life all over again.

Borders—less than Barnes & Noble (worked there, too)—always seemed like kind of a special place. Obviously, it was a pretty huge corporation with, at the time, something like a thousand stores in several countries. But it somehow—at least in those millennial days of superstore shopping centers and Oprah books and cock rock verses boy bands and those stupid Nokia phones with the mix-and-match face plates—managed to retain an air of better taste and/or counter culture cool. The book superstore for DIYers and NPR-listeners, if you will.

Professors and artfags hung out in the café whether or not the poetry readings or bossa nova bands had started up yet. Beth Orton and Belle & Sebastian and Bebel Gilberto and Lucinda Williams frequently played overhead. And at least as much display space was devoted to new and worthwhile fiction from Richard Russo and Joyce Carol Oates, Criterion Collection DVDs and Aimee Mann as to Nora Roberts, Lemony Snicket and whichever band was that given month’s Creed.

And our coworkers? A joyful menagerie of punks and hipsters, dweebs and academics, wannabe-Wiccans and diet goths, artsy-fartsies and fashionistas. A cast of creative misfits eager to share with customers (and colleagues) their passions for Douglas Coupland or Art Spiegelman or Death Cab For Cutie or Woody Allen or Fiona Apple or Miles Davis or the Barefoot Contessa.

We had a lot of fun.

And thanks to a pretty awesome discount, we bought a lot of books.

Some of which are a little embarrassing. You can only ring up so many copies of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Tuesdays With Morrie and Where the Heart Is and Go Ask Alice before finally taking the bait.

Whatever—research! We were merely doing our jobs.

It all seems like so long ago. And so much has changed since then—formerly a huge consumer of music and books (Less so DVDs, who has the attention span?), we can’t remember the last time we went to a store to buy a CD. And our books either get shipped to us from Amazon or are lovingly-selected from the jumbled, dusty shelves of one of a few favorite used book stores (Otherwise, our discretionary income usually ends up in the Marni fund.) Everyone else, it seems, uses a Kindle—which eliminates the thrill of the browse and that new (or old) book smell we love so much.

And with it: The record and publishing industries are a shadow of their former selves. Pondering the now label-less musicians who sold briskly back then; the dozens of hot magazine titles that no longer exist. It’s a different world.

Except it’s been well under ten years. That’s just crazy.

We’ll miss you Borders.

· Love, Frank [Racked]