Last chapter for Kodiak's only bookstore

AP Photo/James Brooks, Kodiak Daily Mirror

KODIAK, Alaska (AP) — It's the final chapter for the Next Page.

Kodiak Island's only bookstore will close for good Dec. 31 after seven years in business.

"It was just a decision we had to finally make," said owner Melony Lechner.

The bookstore has been for sale for about a year, and while there were some offers, Lechner said, no one followed through.

"I just need (a job) with a little more security," she said. "Unfortunately, self-employment doesn't give you health insurance or retirement benefits."

Next Page opened Aug. 6, 2004, to crowds and acclaim. On its first day, the store almost sold out of its whole stock on hand, Lechner recalled.

"I had empty shelves at the end of that day," she said. "People were standing in line forever."

With New Year's Day 2012 scheduled as another day of empty shelves, Lechner said she has heard from dozens of Kodiakans since announcing shortly before Black Friday that the store will close.

"I've gotten a lot of thank-yous," she said.

In addition to new books, Next Page specialized as a showcase for Kodiak Island artists, and it's a venue that will be missed, said customer and artist Deb Christiansen.

"Mel is a good friend, and it's nice to have a comfortable spot to go visit," she said. "She handles a lot of commission pieces and really advocates for us as artists. When she closes, there's going to be a big hole in the community."

"It's going to be sad to see her leave," said Tammy Gould, a customer who brought her grandchildren to the store to shop Monday afternoon.

But like many of Lechner's customers, Gould said she uses an e-reader more than paper copies of books.

"I have a Kindle," she said, "which has been a killer."

Lechner agreed with the last sentiment.

"It's discouraging when people come in and tell me about their Kindles," she said. "It's been getting harder and harder."

Lechner said despite competition from online retailers, she has learned a lot from her experience running her own business, an idea that started with a class at Kodiak College.

She wrote a business plan as her final in a writing class, then decided to put it to use. Her store's counter has since served as a measuring stick, set against the growth of customers' children and her own kids, who were in elementary school when the store opened.

"The kids measured themselves with the counter," she recalled. "They'd say, 'I remember when I couldn't see over this.' I'm going to miss that."

12/12/2011 - 7:38am