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Borders closing Modesto, Stockton stores

Borders will close its Modesto and Stockton bookstores within the next several weeks, along with about 200 of its 642 stores nationwide. The bookseller filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Wednesday.

About 25 people — many of them part-time employees — work at the Modesto store at 3900 Sisk Road. Borders' placed that outlet on its list of "underperforming stores" that must go to make the chain profitable.

The Borders in Turlock was spared.

Details of exactly when the Modesto store will close and how its merchandise will be liquidated were not disclosed Wednesday. Employees got the bad news when they arrived at work, and word spread to customers throughout the day.

"It's sad to see any store going out of business," said customer Eva Hughes of Manteca. "We can't afford to lose any more jobs."

Hughes and her husband, James, routinely drive to Modesto to shop at Borders, where they bought a medical book and a map Wednesday.

The store had a steady stream of customers and a line at the checkout counter Wednesday afternoon, even though going-out-of-business sales have not yet begun.

"I love this store," lamented Virginia Curry of Salida. "I spend probably $75 a month on books."

Curry and her husband, Al, have been trying to make the switch from printed books to electronic versions. First they bought a Cruz e-reader tablet, which didn't work right, and then they traded it in for a Kobo e-reader from Borders.

"It's not as easy to make work as they say it is," Al Curry said. They brought it back to Borders on Wednesday to have the staff show them how to download books.

The transition from paper books to e-books is among the reasons many bookstores are in economic trouble. Online retailers, like Amazon, also cut deeply into traditional bookstore sales.

But some customers have no interest in shopping online or reading off computer screens.

"I don't own a computer," said 79-year-old Frances Chamberlain of Modesto, who bought a bag full of Borders' books Wednesday. "I just read these little paperbacks like (romance novels) by Nora Roberts."

Though paper books are more expensive than electronic versions, 24-year-old Samantha Nemie of Manteca said she prefers holding a book. She was shopping for vegetable growing guides Wednesday.

"I'm probably going to take this book out into the garden with me, and I wouldn't want to bring (an e-reader) there," Nemie said. "I guess I'll go to Barnes & Noble when this closes."

1990s: Bookstores' heyday

There won't be many other options in Modesto for those who want new general audience books through a full-service bookstore.

In the mid-1990s — before Amazon launched or electronic books were invented — Modesto had assorted chain and independent bookstores.

There was Readmore Books downtown, The Bookstore Ltd. in McHenry Village, B. Dalton Books in the Century Center, Walden Books in Vintage Faire Mall and Barnes & Noble on McHenry Avenue.

Borders opened September 1999 in a 25,000-square-foot space in what was then a new section of the Vintage Commons shopping center in northeast Modesto. Readmore Books and The Bookstore both closed that fall, and many people blamed big-box national retailers for the demise of those independent bookstores.

B. Dalton and Walden Books have closed since then.

Now the only Modesto bookstores left are Barnes & Noble, specialty shop Beardsley's Book & Bible Store, used bookstore Yesterday's Books and the textbook-focused Pirates Bookstore at Modesto Junior College.

"God allows us to be open when others close down," said Donna Clark, who works at Beardsley's. "It's a ministry."

Barnes & Noble likely will be the big winner from Borders' Modesto demise, predicted Phil Gauthier, who owns Yesterday's Books.

Barnes & Noble wouldn't comment, but Gauthier said stores selling new books must compete with electronic versions customers can download from the Internet.

"You're going to see what happened in the record industry happen to the book industry: You are going to have bookstores closing," said Gauthier, whose 30-year-old shop buys and sells used books.

He said his store has increased its sales each of the last three years. "We're competing for the same customers, but we offer a better value than new book sellers."

6,000 jobs to be lost

Nationwide, Borders plans to close about 200 of its 642 stores over the next few weeks, from San Francisco to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., costing about 6,000 of the company's 19,500 employees their jobs. The closures are also a blow to publishers already owed tens of millions of dollars by the company, which stopped paying them in December.

Borders said it is losing about $2 million a day at the stores it plans to close, all of them superstores. The company also operates smaller Waldenbooks and Borders Express stores.

Some think Borders' woes will be tough to solve.

"Chapter 11 does not solve any business problems at all," said Jim McTevia, managing partner of turnaround firm McTevia & Associates, in Bingham Farms, Mich. "They are going to have to be an entirely different company than the one that went into bankruptcy protection if they want to emerge successfully."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or 578-2196.

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