Nice Price Books, where people have sold, traded and bought used books and records for nearly three decades, will close sometime in May.
Co-owner Cindy Kamoroff said the decision was personal, not financial, although the market for used materials is not what it used to be.
“It was possible for us to stay in business,” she said, but family obligations led her and husband, co-owner Barry Blanchette, to move on.
“I just don’t have it in me to fight the good fight anymore,” Blanchette said.
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He added the work is increasingly centered on Internet sales and running a mail room. “Neither one of us really liked doing that,” he said.
The used bookstore has been at its 811 Broad St. location for the last 15 years although its been in Durham since 1989. It is the last of the couple’s three bookstores it still owns.
A Carrboro location, which opened in 1986, closed in March 2013. Later that year, they sold the Raleigh store to two longtime employees.
Blanchette tried to sell the Durham store, too, but didn’t find any takers.
“If they wanted the store, they had no money, and if they did, they didn’t want it,” he said. “I couldn’t drum up any interest.”
Kamoroff said she and Blanchette will be leasing the site but declined to comment on a possible tenant.
The planning department, however, approved a parking plan from pizza maker Papa John’s in February.
“One of the nice things about this business is we’ve made lots of connections and friends who have worked for us for a long time,” Kamoroff said. “They’ve taught us a lot and opened our eyes to new books and music.”
“It’s sort of been an intellectual hub,” Blanchette said, comparing the store to a hot rod show where car enthusiasts connect over engines. “People will come in and say ‘I’m interested in this or that,’ and you follow up on it and say ‘I didn’t even know such things existed.’”
Blanchette said Ph.D. candidates used to bring their libraries to him before leaving Durham, and he loved to ask which books were the 10 best. It inevitably led him to new discoveries.
“That’s one thing I’m going to miss a great deal is not only access to obscure material but access to people who are aware of obscure material,” he said.
In the last 27 years, plenty of of obscure treasures have found their way to Nice Price Books, from a scrapbook of early 20th century greeting cards to signed Richard Nixon memoirs.
Kamoroff recalled one day about a year ago when Blanchette came home with a box containing Pauli Murray’s address book. Murray was a social justice activist and the first African-American woman ordained as an Episcopal priest.
“It was fascinating because she was personal friends with a lot of historically significant people,” she said. “James Baldwin was in her address book.”
Filling the void
Blanchette said used bookstores used to be everywhere in cities like New York City, but “gentrification has just done them in.”
He’s noticed the opposite in Durham.
“In fact I know people who are opening them here, opening book stores, opening record stores,” he said. “I think with the advent of foot traffic here there’s a better chance that they survive. People are moving around town at a more human pace.”
He called downtown Durham, in particular, “unbelievable.”
“I remember when I first moved here downtown was deserted,” he said. “It was quiet as a mouse. Now people are moving around in nice clothes and interesting hats.”
He believes the new and existing stores will serve the community well in Nice Price Books’ absence.
Kamoroff said she hopes others, such as Schoolkids Records, Carolina Soul Records and The Regulator Bookshop, will “jump in and fill the void” and that Durham residents will continue to support them.
“We know it’s a hard road, but hopefully people will continue do do that,” she said.
As for Blanchette’s next steps, he said he “happily doesn’t have any pressing concerns.”
“One guy wants me to be a bartender,” he said. “I’ve had several people who want me to work for them, but again I don’t know if long-term self-employment allows you to even think about working for somebody else.”
But he added: “It’d be nice not to have to worry about everything, which is what I’ve had to do for the last 30 years.”
Pauper’s Books and More, located in Johnson County, will buy 20 to 25 percent of Nice Price’s inventory. The rest will go on sale Tuesday at a 25 percent discount.