Martin Carmody’s mission to keep bookstores from becoming a thing of the past isn’t exactly going according to plan.
Three months after Borders’ Stonestown Galleria location closed last July, Carmody decided to take over the lease and open a new bookstore called ODE. After just five months, the store will close its doors March 10 and re-locate to the Metro 580 Shopping Center in Pleasanton, Calif., by March 12. The space will be filled by Sports Authority, a large-scale sporting goods store.
With ODE closing, that’s one less place for students to buy books.
“Students have definitely continued to buy books here since I opened ODE. Now I think they’ll turn to Amazon since it’s convenient and I won’t be here anymore,” said Carmody, who doesn’t stock text books, but a large selection of other titles.
The layout of ODE is similar to the way Borders left it, but only utilizes 7,000 of the 35,000 square feet of retail and office space. Carmody signed a 13-month lease in October with a 30-day termination clause, agreeing to forfeit the space if Stonestown found a more established retailer to take over. So with Sports Authority interested in the spot, ODE was sent packing.
Carmody originally purchased 40,000 books from wholesale retailers for about $50,000. The books arrived in four trucks, but he knew the contents of only one. Of the 40,000 books, only 10 full-price, new release titles like “The Hunger Games” series and the Steve Jobs biography are on display behind the counter. The majority of books, old titles in near-new condition, range from $2 to $10.
“I think it’s a good location for a bookstore, but there wasn’t much thought put into ODE,” said 21-year-old SF State art major Emma Gabriela. “The books are random and all over the place.”
Although the books are organized by genre, the selection never catered to students’ needs, according to Sam Hock, an employee of the SFSU Bookstore.
“ODE doesn’t really have a sense of organization,” said Hock. “I think we’ve always been a superior bookstore to ODE.”
The campus bookstore sells textbooks and books students need for classes and can special order ones that are not available, which is something Hock said ODE cannot do.
Although Carmody said that students from both high schools and colleges in the area continue to buy books from his store, his main goal was to make sure people still had a place to buy physical books.
“People like physical books, and I felt that there was still a demand for them,” said Carmody. “People have a habit of going to Borders.”
Carmody re-arranged the letters of the original Borders sign to create “ODE,” a decision he made for financial purposes rather than symbolic meaning. It cost $5,000 to re-arrange the letters–a small fraction of a brand-new sign’s cost–but the three letters will now be taken down.
“I don’t think ODE closing will affect students too much,” said former Borders employee Lucas Moon. “Even before, students mainly went to Borders to study in the café, instead of actually buying books.”
The corner where the café was located, along with the rest of the unused retail space, is now empty and blocked off by a wall of bookshelves. Carmody hopes to take over several abandoned bookstores in the Bay Area, not only Borders. He wants to call the stores “Giant Book Sale.”
“Wherever I can find an empty bookstore, I’d like to open up another bookstore,” said Carmody.