Like a good book, the end has come too soon.
Sixth Chamber Used Books on Grand Avenue in St. Paul is closing.
“I'm devastated by your news,” a customer told James Williams Friday afternoon, as the store’s owner worked the counter.
“This is my dream to have this bookstore,” Williams said.
For seven years Williams chased his dream through thrift shops and estate sales as he collected 10,000 used books, enough to open - in 1995 - his own store.
Williams created a space where parents could feel comfortable aisle reading on the floor, to their children - a few feet from a mailman obsessed rescue dog named Jeremiah Finch who thinks he owns the place.
“This sort of filled a place that felt familiar and comfortable,” Jennifer Shepard, a Sixth Chamber regular, said. “It’s kind of a neighborhood place, a community place.”
But sometime in March, the book store will be place no more.
“It's come to the conclusion that we just can't make it, doing what we're doing here on Grand Avenue anymore,” Williams said.
The past two years have been the toughest of Williams 24 years in business. Amazon took more and more of his buyers, while E-readers and downloads robbed him of used book sellers.
“We are maybe selling a third of the books that we did at the peak,” Williams said.
When he opened, Williams’ was among seven book stores on Grand Avenue. When he closes, just two will be left.
“Amazon will tell you what they think you might like, but James just lays it all out here and you make the decisions,” Cary Waterman said as she browsed through a new arrivals section.
Williams diversified by adding toys and game at Sixth Chamber, but it wasn’t enough to keep the store profitable.
Williams and his wife own another bookstore in River Falls, Wisconsin, which will remain open.
Still, it’ll be hard packing up the Grand Avenue shelves Williams built by hand.
“I'm gonna miss the people,” Williams said, his voice cracking.
They’re the people Amazon doesn’t see, face to face, the way James did.
The proper way to do business - in his book.