Could Barnes & Noble be a goner in Merced?

10/09/2013 9:42 PM

10/09/2013 9:43 PM

Merced could lose its only store for new books, Barnes & Noble, by the end of January.

Barnes & Noble is on its way out of Merced, according to David Deason, the vice president of development for the company. He confirmed the news Wednesday.

“The current lease expires at the end of January 2014, and we have made numerous attempts to engage in a dialogue with the landlord to extend the lease, without a response,” Deason said in an email. “We’ve been pleased to have served our Merced customers over the last 10 years.”

Deason directed book buyers to the company’s website and the Modesto and Fresno locations.

The building’s owner could not be reached by press time.

Frank Quintero, Merced’s economic development director, said he knew negotiations over the lease were in the works.

Quintero said he heard from some Barnes & Noble officials during a yearly shopping center convention in the spring. They said they were assessing the viability of stores in their “secondary markets.”

“There is that long shot that, yeah, it could be closing,” Quintero said.

However, Quintero said he does not think that Barnes & Noble’s fate in Merced is final. It appears to still be under negotiation, he said.

“(Deason) didn’t say it was final,” Quintero said.

The landlord and tenant were under similar negotiations about two years ago, Quintero said, and they worked out a deal.

If the store were to leave, it would be bigger blow to Merced than just jobs and tax revenue, Quintero said.

“Barnes & Noble is the type of client in Merced we want to start drawing a higher-skilled workforce,” he said, adding it could also hurt other efforts to add retailers to town.

Shoppers in the area of the 1720 W. Olive St. business, which opened in 2004, on Wednesday were displeased with the news that a closure is possible.

Betty Rorabaugh, 71, looked at her smartphone while husband Elmer, 83, sipped coffee outside the business. The Merced couple said they visit Barnes & Noble just about every day.

“That’s too bad; we’ll miss it,” she said, adding she hopes it can stick around. “In the winter, it’s a wonderful place to go.”

The couple said the bookstore is a good place to relax, peruse books and pick one out before they go. Rorabaugh said she likes to drink coffee on the patio when weather permits.

Cory Chartrand, an attorney from Turlock, said he drives into Merced to go the bookstore about twice a month. There aren’t any stores like it in Turlock, he said.

“I look at new books, see books, check them out,” the 48-year-old said. “It’s nice to go to a bookstore. You find out about new books by seeing them at the store.”

Chartrand said it would “be a real shame” to see Barnes & Noble in Merced close.

Max Vigil, a 69-year-old retiree from Merced, said he would miss the store if it shuts. He said he visits often to get a cup of coffee and check out the books.

“I bring my grandkids over here,” Vigil said. “We explore the books.”

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