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After 24 Years, Children's Bookshop to Close Its Doors

Banbury Cross Children's Bookshop in Wenham will close next month after 24 years in business in the center of Wenham.

For nearly a quarter of a century, in Wenham has been a “mission-driven” store selling children’s books.

But next month, it will close.

Owner Pat Purdy said she made the decision after seeing customers buying habits increasingly shift to the Internet – among other factors that have led to less business.

Purdy said she began spreading the word about the closing last week to her most loyal customers and a sign has already been posted on the door advertising 20-50 percent off.

The store is closed on Mondays, but on Tuesday Purdy said she will put a sandwich board and balloons out along Main Street (Route 1A) in front of the store announcing that it is closing and promoting the discounts. She said anyone with a gift certificate should come in and redeem it. All sales will be final, she said.

Starting May 24, all books will then be 50 percent off and Purdy said she will start to sell the fixtures and bookshelves too. The store’s final day is planned for June 15.

“We’ve had faithful, wonderful customers that have been committed to what we do,” Purdy said.

Purdy said she’s increasing been battling Internet book sales. Business, she said, has dropped “precipitously” recently, she said.

“It is not the economy,” she said.

Instead, people find can buy books tax-free – often with free shipping – online, she said. Tax-free online shopping, she said, has been one of the store’s biggest challenges. She’s brought her concerns to local and state leaders, pushing for Internet sales to be taxed.

“You are not working to make it a level playing field,” she has told them, to no avail, she said.

Internet sales have had a much more drastic impact than the big box bookstores, she said.

“We survived the box stores,” she said.

Borders, for example, opened and during Banbury Cross’ lifetime.

Newer parents have grown up almost entirely with the Internet, she said.

“That is their world,” she said. “I get it.”

Purdy said she is not opposed to people making purchases on the Internet or using devices such as the Kindle, Nook or iPad to read e-books.

“Independent bookstores are just going to have to adapt and figure it out,” she said.

The human interaction a shopper gets in the store is an “integral part of what we do,” Purdy said.

She has seen a decrease in interest from parents in sharing a good book with their children.

“I do not fault technology,” she said. “There needs to be a balance.”

Purdy said she personally reviews most of the books she orders before the book is released and considers whether she will stock it.

“What is this book going to bring to a life of a child?” is one question she asks, noting she doesn’t just go down the best seller list and order each book on it. “We’ve always stayed true to our mission.”

The closing will also impact the store manager, Gwen Holt. , which is run out of the store, will continue at other locations, she said.

Purdy said she leases the building and it will be a relief to not have to worry about paying the rent each month. Beyond that, she’s not sure what she will do next in life, considering more volunteer work, getting a part-time job or traveling.

“It’s interesting, I’m open to ideas,” she said.

Catherine Hardy-Tinsley May 07, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Sometimes we don't know what we have until its gone... Thank you Pat for choosing Wenham for your book store! It is a strange thought that you won't be there when looking for a unique game, story, toy ... but this gives us a chance as a community to say thank you, please know you are a special person to Hamilton and Wenham! a true treasure. Wishing you the best.
Susan Carp May 08, 2012 at 01:33 AM
How lucky we were to be a part of the Banbury Cross history! Pat's store was like grandma's attic ... treasures everywhere. Our 2 youngest sat on the floor upstairs when Baby's and Books was located there. We purchased many books over the years to read to our children and continued to read to them even though they were older. Pat helped us fill baskets of our favorite books to give to new parents ... and Gwen was always so helpful as well. This looks to be a new chapter in Pat's book - wishing you well and thank you for all the wonderful guidance!
M. Meahl May 08, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Pat and Gwen are the best! And did so much for our schools with their fantastic book fairs. It's too bad. The book world is changing so fast in ways that I am not sure we really want (if you really think about it). Good luck with your new chapter in life!
Jean Jones May 08, 2012 at 01:22 PM
We were extremely sad to hear Banbury Cross is closing, It has been a jewel in this town for 24 years. We've loved shopping there, sending children there with gift certificates and even stopping to chat with Pat and Gwen. I'm sad for us, but sadder for children and young parents who won't experience the joy of entering this treasure and exploring the wonder of books. Thanks, Pat
Laura May 08, 2012 at 05:01 PM
We will miss Mrs. Purdy and Banbury Cross! Thank you many wonderful years and countless wonderful book suggestions.

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