Sad news from New Orleans: Maple Street Book Shop, a leading indie bookstore in the city since its founding in 1964, is closing June 17. The store had announced it was closing in 2015 but stayed open after what owner Gladin Scott called the "overwhelming" support of loyal customers, the landlord and potential investors.
Yesterday he told the Uptown Messenger, "People were so supportive in the last quarter of 2015 that it allowed me to pay a good bit of the shop's debt off. We had hoped we would continue to see a little bump into 2016, but unfortunately that didn't happen. In 2017, business continued to decline sharply. As much as the shop means to me, I don't have the resources to keep it going anymore."
Maple Street Book Shop was founded by Mary Kellogg and Rhoda Kellogg Norman and at first specialized in paperbacks. In 1970, Rhoda Faust bought the shop from her mother, Mary Kellogg, and owned it for 37 years. In describing the store's mission, Faust coined the phrase "fight the stupids." She expanded, and at one point the store had six locations but then shrunk back to its original site and the Maple Street Children's Book Shop. The children's store closed in 2007, when Faust sold the store to Donna Allen, who expanded the store again. Manager Gladin Scott bought Maple Street Book Shop in 2013 and consolidated into its current location.
The store wrote in part: "Thank you for 53 years. It has been an honor to be part of this community.... Please join us for our last month and a half. Come celebrate the shop with us!... We're not sure what we'll do next, but we'll always keep fighting the stupids. We hope that you will too."
Scott told the Uptown Messenger that "technology" was a bigger factor than any other in the store's closing. "We've relied on student business, but it's not as it was a decade ago. They order books online; they read online; they download books. I still have armies of students passing the shop, but their eyes are attached to their iPhone, not looking at the shop or anything else."
In addition, political activism might have hurt. "We're a left-wing bookshop, and every time I check Facebook I see my customers out protesting," Scott said. "A lot of people who would normally be in the bookshop are focused on what's going on in the rest of the country."