Davis Square’s landmark used bookstore only has one year left on its lease, and owners say it may follow the lead of the square’s landmark used record store – out of the neighborhood, if not into oblivion.
The 2004 closure of Disc Diggers might have been the writing on the wall, said Michael McIntyre of McIntyre and Moore Booksellers. “Once it was known the T was
going in, it was obvious how it was going to go,unfortunately we don’t really grasp the obvious that well,” he said.
Business has taken a downturn in the last few years, forcing them to cut staffing and decrease inventory, McIntyre said. But the store has weathered rough markets before.
Prior to landing in Davis Square in 1998, McIntyre and Moore had its first incarnation in 1983 in a 500-square foot basement space in Harvard Square. In 1988 they expanded to a 2,200-square foot storefront in the then cutting edge Cambridge locale.
“The big one was nice but it was a lot of rent,” he said. McIntyre said the end of residential rent control in Cambridge was a major factor in driving a number of used bookstores, including their’s, from Harvard Square, because it ate up their clientele’s disposable income and drove them from the area. “Intellectuals are a population that is generally broke,” he said.
And now he sees similar things happening in Davis Square. “I would like it to be more of a destination for weird retail instead of just restaurants,”he said. “What I would love would be another used bookstore, or a couple other used bookstores.”
While in other markets having similar businesses in close proximity might be considered a negative,it is actually beneficial in the used book business, because it can turn an area into a regional, national, or even international destination, McIntyre said.
But, he said, Davis Square today seems to be geared more toward nightlife and a culture he does not entirely understand.“People seem perfectly willing to go out and spend $30 and you don’t get to take anything home,” he said. And besides gentrification, McIntyre said, these days the store is facing other modern world challenges, too.
“In a physical store, you really depend on people buying books they weren’t really looking for,” he said. “Now with the internet if you are looking for a particular book you can get it.”
“Even if we are cheaper, it doesn’t matter,you don’t have to get it now, you’ll be able to find it later,” he said. For a few years the bookstore was able to make up for lagging in-store sales by peddling its wares on the Web, McIntyre said. But, possibly
because the market is so crowded with sellers now, McIntyre and Moore’s Internet sales have been lagging.
The Internet also provides competition for readership because it provides so much free literary content. “There’s more competition in the sense that people just go online and start reading things,” he said.
According to news stories from when Disc Diggers closed, they planned to re-open exclusively online, but there is currently no activity at their advertised site, discdiggers.com.
For now, McIntyre and Moore are doing everything it can to keep things rolling. “We’ve got the best books we’ve ever had, and they are very often available on the internet, and we are open seven days a week until 11 p.m., so we’re trying to be
convenient,” he said.
And, when their lease is up they may have to find a smaller space, possible in a different locale, he said. And he does miss the old days. “Used books used to sell themselves, it was a lot like selling drugs, he said.