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Decline in book sales spells the end for Sweet Briar

Allen Marr checks out the rows and rows of used books for sale at Sweet Briar Books, 654 G St., just north of the Davis Food Co-op. The 15-year-old store is liquidating its inventory and owner Sharon Segal plans to close her doors by Dec. 31. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

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From page A1 | November 06, 2011 |

Davis is about to bid farewell to yet another bookstore.

Sweet Briar Books, the 15-year-old used bookstore in the G Street Shopping Center, will shut its doors by the end of December, the result of a significant decline in business over the past year.

Sweet Briar is the second Davis bookstore to close in recent months — following Borders in September — and with Bogey’s having closed four years ago, leaves just two remaining bookstores in town: The Avid Reader and Logos.

The store’s closure also will leave a row of five vacant storefronts on the north end of the G Street Shopping Center, which is anchored on the south end by the Davis Food Co-op.

Liquidation sales will start on Friday, with all books, CDs, DVDs and toys marked down 20 percent and all maple bookshelves and tables for sale as well.

The closure marks the end of a nice run for owner Sharon Segal, who said business was pretty good — for the first 14 years, anyway.

“But this last year,” she said, “it dropped off so much, I can’t keep going.”

The drop-off began last Christmas, which was normally a very profitable period for the store, Segal said. Instead, sales were no better than the previous month, and things continued downhill from there.

“It was a shocker,” she said. “Business just fell off and I’m not able to stay afloat.”

The closure of Borders earlier this year didn’t send any additional business her way, Segal said, and she didn’t really expect it to, given that Sweet Briar sells used books. Still, when Borders opened back in 1998, Sweet Briar did see a 25 percent drop-off in business that never returned.

Back when she opened Sweet Briar in 1996, Segal said, “the bookstore climate was already changing and people told me I was really brave. But it really was a good run for 14 1/2 years.”

Prior to opening the store, Segal had spent several years working at Bogey’s, the venerable downtown bookstore that closed its doors at the end of 2007.

“When Bogey’s closed,” Segal said, “some people wanted me to start selling new books, but I just really wanted the old-fashioned used bookstore.”

For many years, she said, it’s been the kind of place where longtime regulars would come in and browse for hours on end. A couple were there on Friday, including one older gentleman who brought along a friend to check out Sweet Briar’s science collection.

“He’s one of those who comes in and stays for a while browsing,” Segal said of the customer. “Those are the people who are really going to miss this, the people who come in and browse.”

And she will miss them.

“This was a wonderful community to do business in all these years,” she said. “A lot of people have been worried about the store for so long and have been so supportive. I don’t think a used bookstore would have lasted this long in any other community.”

Now she’s hoping the coming holiday season will help with liquidation.

“Maybe people can find their Christmas gifts here,” Segal said. “There’s a lot of books to sell.”

In addition to the books and other items that will be marked down by 20 percent beginning Friday, Segal also will sell 42 maple bookcases, each of which stands just over 7 feet tall, 10 large tables with built-in cubbies, some utility shelves in the back room, metal bookends, signs and more.

When all that is said and done, Segal said she’ll be looking for a job for the first time in nearly 16 years. She’ll also be laying off three part-time employees, including two who worked at Bogey’s before coming to Sweet Briar.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at aternus@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8051.

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Anne Ternus-Bellamy

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