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HomeA&EBooks
Published: Wednesday, 4/13/2005

A bittersweet final chapter

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Thackeray s assistant manager Lee Post hugs longtime customer Cecilia Arras of Findlay on the bookstore s last day. Thackeray s assistant manager Lee Post hugs longtime customer Cecilia Arras of Findlay on the bookstore s last day.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Cecilia and Joe Arras knew it was time yesterday to say good-bye to an old friend.

Even their two collies, Savannah and Peggy Sue, knew that something serious was happening.

"I told Savannah this was her last trip, and she hung her head," Mrs. Arras said.

All four of them got into their truck in Findlay and began the morning drive to Toledo, where they joined a steady stream of local booklovers in paying their last respects to Thackeray's Books on its final day of business after nearly 22 years.

Most did it with one last book purchase and a few kind words to employees. Mrs. Arras did it with a camera and a hug.

Employees help long lines of customers on the final day. Employees help long lines of customers on the final day.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

"Take two, just in case," she told her husband as she posed for a photo behind the counter with her arm around assistant manager Lee Post.

Like so many people, the Arrases have been coming to Thackeray's regularly for years.

"It's almost like family, really," Mr. Arras said.

Which makes it that much harder to handle its passing, the result of expanding competition and rising costs. The immediate cause is the opening of a book and music store in nearby Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park by Borders Group, Inc., which supplied Thackeray's inventory from the beginning and where most of the retailer's employees will start working next week.

Patrons like Bob Rodriguez of Delta, who was one of the first to stop by yesterday for one last look (and perhaps one last book), said they'll miss the personal service and friendly atmosphere. "It's kind of sad because you're losing a business to a chain store," he said.

Thackeray's was a community icon practically from the beginning, when it opened April 15, 1983, under the ownership of five investors with ties to the University of Toledo. It became known for book signings with famous authors and storytime readings for children.

Bill Henning, a part owner from Lambertville, remembers the early days, particularly working until 5 a.m. getting ready to open the store for its first day.

"I was here the first day. I need to be here the last day," Mr. Henning said while scanning the thinning shelves - the magazine and newspaper sections were empty yesterday and merchandise in other sections was selling quickly.

What people found in Thackeray's over the years was as varied as the titles that lined its shelves.

For Carolyn Frigmanski of West Toledo, it was a routine. She used to visit regularly on walks with other stops at Barry Bagels, Blue Ribbon Photo, or the Lion Store. Now, of those only Barry remains open.

For Elaine Long, it was a chance to get a book about absolutely anything, from fantasy to spinning wheels. She brought her daughter, Alexandra, 4, from Delta yesterday to stock up on gifts and revel one last time in that "new book smell."

"Nothing beats the new book smell," she said. "It just reminds me of being a kid ... starting a new adventure."

Burley Channer of Lambertville, who said his son helped put up the bookshelves in the store, came to try and save something.

"When the house is burning down, I think, 'What shall I grab?' " he said.

In his case, the answer was: something in the foreign language section, where he fingered through the titles.

All the attention, all the people offering their condolences, all the letters and e-mails, and even some baked goods, they've all been noted by one man standing along the side of the 13,000-square-foot store.

Clyde Dilley, the principal owner of Thackeray's, has had time to come to terms with this end and he gratefully acknowledged the support for the store.

"It makes me realize that we did something good," he said.

Perhaps no one can testify to that better than Denise Mollenkopf of West Toledo, one of about 30 employees at the store. She has worked there since the beginning and knows just how much a bookstore can mean to people.

"I lived in a town that didn't have a bookstore," she said. "I was never in a bookstore until I was an adult."

Now, remembering all the interesting, intelligent people over the years was enough to make her teary-eyed.

As the hours ticked down, the lines got longer.

When 6 p.m. came and the doors were locked and the closing music from the Lawrence Welk Show was played - as usual - the lines still snaked to the back of the store.

An hour later, the last sales were being rung up, and Mr. Dilley and some of the workers marked the occasion with little glasses of champagne.

Outside, the store's mission statement was stuck to the door with a hand-written addition: "Mission accomplished."

As the employees lingered, Ms. Mollenkopf still had her own plan for memorializing the end of the store: leaving a rose from Thackeray's 20th anniversary party at the front door.

Like the others who came to pay respects yesterday, she agreed the bloom came off this Toledo rose too soon.

Or as Mrs. Arras mournfully put it: "I thought Thackeray's would be here as long as we wanted to read books."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at:

ryansmith@theblade.com

or 419-724-6103.



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