Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bring Back Jay's!

So I felt obliged to read Bob H's commentary today on the prospects of the book(store) biz in the Burgh:  Bookstore plan stays on shelf for now.  I'm thinking he should write a blog.  Overall, his comments may be right on, but there were a few points that just jumped out at me.

That the economy may not be conducive to new businesses may be be quite correct.  Most bookstore owners I have ever known were never ones to be reacting to the macro-economy.  Though he quotes one Brookings study of note recently that says the local economy may not be humming, there are also things like Forbes that say Pittsburgh has some of the biggest income growth in the nation.  Starting a new biz is not necessarily about where you are at, but where you have been as a region.  You have to wonder if there are now a slew of under-retailed businesses opportunities in the region reflecting upon the recent history when it made no sense to invest here.  From a true investor's point of view, or let's say a value investor's point of view, it may be the ideal time to come to town. 

The lesson of course is that by the time conditions appear so ideal that Bob or I were to start a new book business, our less risk averse and more entrepreneurial friends will have already staked their ground.  Kind of how it is supposed to work. 

But he also points out some curious geography, which is really what caught my attention:
The city's up-and-coming neighborhoods -- Lawrenceville, East Liberty, Garfield, kind of -- don't seem poised to support a full-service bookstore.
So first off.  East Liberty hosts the (relatively - by Pittsburgh standards*) new Borders Bookstore which I am just guessing is the biggest bookstore in the entire city of Pittsburgh. He didn't write "don't seem poised to support another full-service bookstore".    Since I am sure Bob knows about Borders, do his comments mean 'Eastside' has now officially seceded from East Liberty or otherwise merged with Shadyside?

Garfield.  OK..  Garfield is about a few feet from my doorstep and the the sheer size of Garfield may make new business generation difficult.  Still, I wonder if Bob knows there is a very neat (if not full service) bookstore operating in Garfield right now:  Awesome Books (formerly Clay Penn).  No coffee-shop, but it does have this Maine Coon cat effectively guarding the place that adds to the appeal   Does that one operating bookstore alone already make it among the book-elite among the city's 88 semi-official neighborhoods which are almost all lacking any bookstore at all? I assure you in terms of bookstores per capita Garfield is near the top.

Lawrenceville is an interesting point though in its lack of a bookstore. Someone should get on that.  They do have a Library (for now), so it's not like they are a book-desert. I still can't believe your average bookstore entrepreneur is reading the Wall Street Journal as they decide upon a business plan. There must be some new arrival hipster willing to tell Ben Bernanke he can be damned.  (as per the Farragut quote mind you, not Dante).

So I started typing thinking Bob's piece would be an easy foil to give me an excuse to post a picture I have of Jay's Bookstall on its last day. Now I can't find it.  So maybe I will append it later when I track it down.   

Trust me.. that was all more fun than having me comment on Harold's commentary today.  But if you want more on that I pull from the archives: Economic Impact of the Elderly in Allegheny County.

Hey wait... elderly read books still don't they?

* We will stop calling all the things in Eastside 'new' when the Spine Line finally gets built. 

5 Comments:

Anonymous The Wiz said...

Your study from 1999 states that the elderly population was expected to decline by 15% by 2112. Will be interesting to see how that turns out in the next census data.

In my years as a homebuilder/remodeler, most homes I built were for empty nesters. And much of the remodels were for elderly addressing accessibility issues. Some were too pour to afford the work but some would be calling their brokers awhile I was working. They would tell them to sell a thousand shares of this or but $10,000 of that...even though they had got me down in price because "I'm elderly and can't afford much!"

Sunday, December 05, 2010 1:58:00 PM  
Anonymous The Wiz said...

oops, poor...not pour!

Sunday, December 05, 2010 1:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems like Hoover might be wise to consider retirement. His recent story about the National Book Award was terribly snarky, even bitter. Now he's way down on the Pittsburgh book scene, and having trouble getting his facts straight.

Sunday, December 05, 2010 7:17:00 PM  
Blogger rich10e said...

Starbucks should enter the book market. They already have 16000 locations.They are already making headways in the music biz.They could specialize via stores. History one store, mystery another. The possibilities are endless as are the locations!!

Sunday, December 05, 2010 8:28:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Eastside is still new, if you figure from when they finished the last part.

He also left out the Pitt bookstore, which is fairly well stocked with books aside from texts and I've seen Pitt students read them.

Sunday, December 05, 2010 9:58:00 PM  

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