The Great Bookstore Protest | Street Jazz

The Great Bookstore Protest

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With the news that B. Dalton is about to close its doors in the Northwest Arkansas Mall in January, one is faced with the sobering fact that, for the first time in decades, there will be no bookstore to liven up the “Mall Experience.”

We have even had periods when there have been two bookstores in the mall at the same time. While many many recall the period when Waldenbooks occupied a space in the mall, not many may remember Heritage Bookstore, the first bookstore in the mall, which was so severely  impacted by the arrival of B. Dalton, and in its mad efforts to compete, inspired the Great Bookstore Protest.

There weren’t that many bookstores in Fayetteville in those thrilling days of yesteryear. One on Dickson and one in the mall. Okay, there there were several were you could buy used books, but new bookstores? They were a rare species.

Heritage Bookstore was a good sized bookstore, and was popular with lots of folks in Fayetteville. But once B. Dalton opened their doors in the mall, things changed quite a bit.

For one thing, you could order a book from B Dalton, and it would get there a lot faster than they could get it there at Heritage Books. They also had a wider selection of books and magazines.

What’s a bookstore to do? Well, the first thing they did was to literally shrink the store by half its size.

If you thought B. Dalton had a better selection before, it was doubly true now.

Not to worry, though. Heritage had a trick up their sleeves, one they were sure that would boost their business and restore them to heights to glory. In the mid-1980s they added a porn section in the back of the store.

No, really. Not just Playboy and Hustler, but the types of magazines and novels  that get passed around in gym class.

While I’m not sure how much this boosted their business, it certainly got the attention of one local church, which decided to mount its own protest.

You really can’t protest at the mall, so they had to go about this in a more cunning way than simply standing on the street, holding signs and chanting.

A group of church-goers would park themselves on the benches outside the bookstore - just folks sitting around shaving a Coke, officer! - and wait for someone to go in and saunter into the dirty book section, after which someone from their group would go into the store and ask the store clerk in a loud voice:

“Excuse me, does this store sell Bibles?”

I suppose the theory was that, upon haring that, whoever was looking at the dirty pictures would have a Saul on the Road to Damascus moment, and rush out and into the arms of their nearest spiritual advisor.

Not sure if it worked, but the added porn section didn’t help Heritage. They shut down in the 1980s, only to be mentioned as the butt of jokes.

******

The Mall without a bookstore?

What? The Northwest Arkansas Mall with no bookstore at all? I’m not pretentious. Sometimes I like going to the mall. But with no bookstore?

I don’t think so.

*****

Quote of the Day

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