Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own.
Do you guys remember Borders books? You know, the bookstore chain Barnes & Noble sort of gobbled up before it also kind of fizzled into obscurity?
For those of you close to my age, these once-ubiquitous bookstores likely only exist on the peripheries of our memories. If you’re lucky, you might still have a local bookstore you can turn to, but I imagine most are like me — I haven’t lived in any proximity to a bookstore since my hometown’s Borders shut down.
This is the case in College Park too. Before you mention BookHolders, that doesn’t count because it’s basically more textbook warehouse than furnished bookstore, and the University Book Center, just from the name, doesn’t serve the whole community.
College Park needs a bookstore. And the perfect location for a College Park bookstore is the old Bagel Place spot.
Everyone reads books and if you want to buy one, you can’t go to one of the segregated libraries. Most students probably tend to go to the campus libraries because the public ones are too far to walk to, and vice versa. If we only have one bookstore, I imagine people in all niches of our community would have to share the space.
Bookstores are so important because community bonds are created and strengthened through shared spaces, which College Park lacks. I think most who knew of the Bagel Place, myself included, had a deep love and bond with it. Replacing it with an establishment to promote these bonds within our community feels just.
Sure, we’ve got libraries, parks, restaurants and cafes, but these spaces are for casual get-togethers. It’s difficult to work on a project or go beyond superficial bonds in these places. And although we also have more formal, dedicated spaces such as the Discovery District, that’s a bit too entrepreneur-y for many of us.
The bigger issue in my eyes though, is these places are often segregated. I’ve noticed there are student cafes, bars and restaurants — and then ones where actual residents tend to go. I’d argue there’s no truly mixed space for College Park residents and university folk to mingle.
But the Bagel Place’s old location is both close enough to the campus for students and to residential Old Town. It’s located on Route 1 but also right in front of a parking lot, which is great for bikers and drivers.
Plus, the former kitchen areas are a massive boon, as they could be converted into a mini cafe. Given the economic difficulties of keeping a brick and mortar bookstore open during the age of Amazon and ebooks, a cafe in a convenient location — in the path of caffeine deprived college students on the way to 8 a.m. classes — would alleviate some of this risk.
For my grand community-building theory, the only thing better than a bookstore is a bookstore with a cozy cafe. It would be better than a normal bookstore for both regular College Park folk and university-associated people to meet up, relax, read and form stronger connections. A cafe corner and comfortable lounge seating provides a versatile space for a variety of activities.
This is such an important part of a community fabric for College Park to be missing. We need a place with the smell of coffee and new books, with ample window lighting and bean bag chairs.
I’m not saying I want a replica small town Borders with cafe nook from my childhood. Frankly, this would work out better as a local business. What I want is a space to enrich our community and bridge the usual gaps.
Also books. Books are great. They’re healthier for you than ice cream after a messy breakup.
The College Park City Council can provide grants to help promote these spaces for individuals looking to start a local cafe bookstore. Or, it can directly bargain with landlords to make it easier for such an establishment to open.
Or, if you’re Curtis Property Management, the landlord for the Bagel Place’s old location, you can do one better. Pay the community back for the heartbreak you’ve caused by forcing the Bagel Place out and lease the place out to a bookstore and cafe business.
At the time of this writing, there’s no publicized future tenant for this space, but the city of College Park and Curtis Property Management really can’t do better than a cafe bookstore. While I know it’s an uncertain time for the economy and bookstores aren’t the most secure investments, I have a feeling a cute cafe with books on the edge of a college campus is going to do much better than the average American bookstore.
Here’s an open secret from one disgruntled student who likes bookstores and bagel shops. Helping us get a cafe bookstore is what Curtis Property Management can do to right the wrong it’s done in this community. Maybe it’ll even result in a business more universally beloved than the Bagel Place.
We need local community spaces. And the best thing the College Park City Council or Curtis Property Management can do to create more is to increase the incentives and reduce the risk for residents to open a cafe bookstore.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to better represent the author’s intent in describing BookHolders.
Jessica Ye is a junior economics and government and politics major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.