Usually, when I convene our weekday afternoon Page One meeting, I know what stories City Editor Ken Brown and assistant Tom Jensen will have on the budget for local and area news. (It helps that we often have an informal meeting to discuss story plans in the morning.)
Thus, I was surprised and saddened Friday afternoon to see the entry, "River Lights Bookstore to close." Sometime between the morning and afternoon meetings, the Telegraph Herald learned that Dubuque's independent bookstore is throwing in the towel. It will close in the next few months.
Long before I became an author whose book is carried at River Lights, my wife and I were River Lights customers. We shopped at River Lights when it was in the Kmart Plaza and followed Martha Fuerste, Sue Davis and company to their present location in Wacker Plaza. We appreciated the personal service and friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Actually, I was more saddened than surprised. A few years ago, Borders a store opened in Kennedy Mall -- right across Wacker Drive from River Lights. How long could a small, independent bookseller survive against a bigger chain store, which can command deeper discounts from publishers than can the River Lights of the world?
Don't misunderstand: I have nothing against the folks at the Dubuque Borders; it is managed by an energetic Dubuquer who runs a good store and has been supportive of local authors.
And who can say River Lights' challenges were all because of Borders? After all, Internet sales continue to grab a bigger share of the sales marketplace (ie, Amazon.com).
Whatever the reasons, I'm sorry that River Lights will close. The folks there have been so great for the community -- and especially for local authors (including yours truly). That River Lights was able to hang in there so long with the Internet and a "Big Box" competitor right across the street is an accomplishment.