CARRBORO — The owners of Nice Price Books say slumping sales and readers’ changing tastes are forcing them to close a local store after 26 years.
The store’s last day will be March 10, co-owner Cindy Kamoroff said. Until then, everything is on sale as they try to liquidate about 70,000 books, albums, videos and other items crowding the store, she said. Nice Price Books stores in Durham and Raleigh will remain open, she said.
“Over time, because of the competition and establishment of Amazon, the prices of used materials have just gone down and down, so we have to sell a lot more just to be even with what we used to do. It’s not like our overhead goes down,” Kamoroff said.
Sales have taken a roughly 40 percent hit from online stores and customers switching to e-readers, Kamoroff said. Even the store started selling some items through Amazon, because it has a wider audience and they can charge more, she said.
“People should know if they want cultural institutions to survive, they have to support them,” she said.
The final blow was the construction of a Hampton Inn at 300 East Main, which closed the sidewalk from downtown Carrboro to the store for nearly a year, she said. Shoppers were reluctant to cross the street two or three times and navigate the complex East Main-West Rosemary-West Franklin intersection to get there, she said.
That cost them another 20 percent to 30 percent in sales, Kamoroff said.
Carrboro Planning Director Trish McGuire said the town contacted the developers of 300 East Main in December. They could have reopened the sidewalk temporarily but decided against it to avoid another closure while building new sidewalks, she said.
Kamoroff and her husband Barry Blanchette opened the Carrboro location in 1986 in the space now occupied by Cat’s Cradle at 300 E. Main St.
In 1992, they moved the store to a former millhouse at the corner of Boyd and East Main streets. They now have seven part-time employees, she said.
The bookstore has been one place their customers could find unusual or obscure books, from how to wear traditional Nairobian clothing to a 50-year-old pamphlet about Japan, Kamoroff said.
“That’s one thing that’s great about this community, because there are a lot of people who are well-traveled, who have lived all over the place. It’s a fairly mobile community, because it is an academic community. People bring in all kinds of weird stuff,” she said.
The store also became a repository of residents’ stories.
Behind the counter, Kamoroff keeps a photo album labeled “Found at Nice Price.” Inside, the staff preserves memories that book owners tucked away or forgot, from a black-and-white family photo of a toddler banging on drums to a faded plane ticket from India and an autographed photo of Siegfried and Roy. Other pages hold daily minutiae – out-of-date prescriptions, appointment reminders and receipts.
Another book holds the colorful stories that Robert Harman – the self-dubbed “King of Carrboro” – told to staff about his adventures, she said. Harman, a well-known local figure, was killed in a 2011 accident.
Carrboro’s interesting people and the regular shoppers – about 80 percent of their customers – are what she’ll miss, Kamoroff said.
“Personally, I feel grateful that they have supported us for as long as they have. I’ll miss them,” she said. “I cried a lot on Thursday when I had to tell everybody.”
Jason Merrill, owner of Back Alley Bikes, said Blanchette and Kamoroff are selling him the building.
He and Heather Ragan-Kwakye, owner of Lucky Star Market, hope to move their North Graham Street store into the space by early April, he said. The bigger location will let them have more parking and outdoor seating, and Ragan-Kwakye’s neighborhood grocery will be able to feature more retail items, along with coffee and snacks, Merrill said.