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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Calling the roll

We've just finished the last holiday season for B. Dalton. The last 50ish are closing, with one or two (the Union Station, DC location may be one) that will stay open as a B&N.

Once upon a time, these were where we shopped for our books. It's my (correct) recollection that the chain was owned by Dayton Hudson, the department store chain that eventually became Target, and was sold to Barnes & Noble in the mid-1980s, just about the same time that I started my literary agent career. This was a minnow swallowing whale sort of thing. B&N used the Dalton cash to fund its move into superstores (modeled after Borders; though B&N likes to pretend it was first, Borders was already starting to open its large-format stores here and there around the country), was much more aggressive in shuttering its mall format stores than Borders was about downsizing Waldenbooks, and within another month or so will have exited the business completely. B&N also purchased the mostly smaller Doubleday and Scribner brands and folded them into Dalton.

I hereby remember the following Dalton/Doubleday/Scribner locations, and also the little B&N bookstores that were what B&N once was:

WA: Southcenter Mall (also had a Waldenbooks that was replaced with a Borders)

CA: Embarcadero Center, SF; Farmers Market, LA; downtown LA (the one I couldn't visit but looked longingly at two summers ago bedecked with the old old old logo)

MI: Briarwood Mall, Ann Arbor (right off center court, a frequent stop in my college years)

TX: Houston (I visited in 1979, walking over from my hotel on a Saturday during my bus tour, in the basement of an office complex shopping complex); Austin, the mall where Elizabeth Moon used to go with her son for ice skating.

MA: South Shore Mall (also a sole survivor breathing its last)

CT: WestFarms mall (also a multi-store mall, now with one of the last 200 Waldenbooks, and where my younger brother once worked); Doubleday WestFarms; Hartford Civic Center mall;

NYC: The B. Dalton, the one that moved into the Orange Plaza Mall in the mid 1970s and which became my home book store, the B. Dalton where I happily got gift certificate for my Bar Mitzvah, the B. Dalton where I spent my first Caldor paycheck buying Gene Wolfe's Citadel of the Auturch in hardcover; the B. Dalton at the central entrance with the sf section in the back corner; the big and bright and airy B. Dalton that will always be mine.
Elmhurst across from the Queens Center mall; 8th St. and 6th Ave., (turned into a B&N); 5th Ave. and 52nd St. (the flagship B. Dalton, which I loved dearly, which occupied the space now taken up by the NBA store; this was a great, great bookstore); Doubleday 5th Ave. and 53rd St. (the sf section you could only reach by riding an elevator; Scribner 5th Ave. and 48th St. (where I cajoled by father into buying me Orson Scott Card's Songmaster in hardcover; Doubleday 57th and 5th, once open to midnight, their flagship, and many evenings late at night a street band would set up across the street; Doubleday 3rd Ave. and 49th St.
the B&Ns on B'way & 73rd, B'way & 80th; Times Square; lower B'way; Park Row; 47th & 3rd (closest to the SMLA offices), 57th & 7th; 86th & Lex; Grand Central; 33rd & 7th; 8th St. @ 6th Ave.; Albee Square Brooklyn; Forest Hills
and some more B. Daltons: SmithHaven Mall (also once a 2-store mall); Roosevelt Field (once very big then much smaller spot a few doors down and now a sole survivor that is about to close);

NJ: Bergen Mall (a little chunk of where the Whole Foods is now); Paramus Park Mall (when I saw an entire shelf of Elizabeth Moon's Deed of Paksenarrion paperbacks at this store some 20 years ago, that was then it dawned on me that she was going to be my first really successful client; the mall is now about to lose its Waldenbooks;); B&N Essex Green;

The DC Area, which was once blanketed with B. Dalton locations: The Shops at National; Union Station, which moved from a little tiny hole to a big airy location and which may be re-branded as B&N; Chevy Chase Pavillion; K St., a block from the 18th&L Borders; 2 at Crystal City, a big and a little; Springfield Mall (once a 2-store mall, now its Waldenbooks is about to close); Lake Forest Mall (once a 2-store mall, now its Waldenbooks is about to close); Ballston Commons; Scribner in Fashion Centre at Pentagon City

This list is almost certainly not a complete list of every B. Dalton that I've visited. The chain peaked at 800 stores in 1986, which is 23 years ago. Some I visited only once a long, long time ago; and others I may have visited more times than that but all those visits so long ago that the memories are in distant recesses of my mind, with my forgotten knowledge of calculus. I'll update the post as some of those resurface.

But these places were where all of us used to shop for our books. If there's a Dalton or two you remember, I hope you'll make mention of it in the comments section. As the book business moves inexorably to an electronic future, let's light a few candles for what once was and what will soon be no more.


Tim Akers said...

B.Dalton, Asheville Mall, Asheville N.C.-For a lot time the only large bookstore in dear, dear Asheville, where my parents took me as a kid. Across the way from a Woolworth, down the hall from Belk's. Long gone, but long remembered.

Myke said...

B. Dalton off Central Ave. in Hartsdale, NY. After I got Lloyd Alexander's "The Book of Three" from a Scholastic catalog and fell in love with Fantasy, I got the rest of the series. That store got my life started in some ways.

Unknown said...

B. Dalton at the SherDen Mall in Sherman, TX, just across from the dancing fountain that seemed so big when I was a yougin', but which in reality was probably rather small. I have no way of testing the memory, since the mall is long gone.

Fondest recollection: buying Cujo at the same B. Dalton store. Took several weeks allowance, but it was the first hardback book I owned. Sadly, it's long gone, too.

Lynxswift said...

I remember the B. Dalton accross from the Queens Center Mall :). It was my first experience with a bookstore :). I picked up all sorts of goodies there for school, book reports. Notoriously, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy :). I had also discovered Dragon Magazine there, and returned many a time to pick up an issue. It was next to one of those old-style, Chinese restaurants. The kind where the waiters were in tuxedos and they had those little, appetizer platters with the little sterno grills :).

Hood neighbors said...

Just walked by the Union Station DC B. Dalton location. Its windows are now covered by "Barnes and Noble" brown paper. Looks like you're correct and that this will become a Barnes and Noble store. It's a lot smaller than the usual B&N store, so this may be a return to the smaller B&N stores?