Food for Thought bookstore may close after 37 years

By Catherine Ferris

Food for Thought, a local bookstore located in the center of Amherst, has recently written a newsletter informing customers that due to insufficient funds, it will be closing by the end of 2013 after 37 years unless there is a drastic change in circumstance.

Justin Surgent/ Collegian

The newsletter explains the main problem, which is the “financial debt incurred by the massive drop in textbook sales over the past couple of years.” Fewer books sit on the shelves because of a lack of money to invest in new stock.

It states that there is still a chance for the store to remain open past the end of this year, but in order for that to happen, changes must be made. Grace Johnston, an owner of the store, said if they raise enough money in sales or donations, Food for Thought will stay open, but only at half its current size.

They are looking to raise $38,000 and have received $8,821 in donations through an Indiegogo account so far. The account launched on Nov. 16, 2013 and accepts $5, $25 and $50 donations. When someone chooses a $50 dollar donation, two former volunteers will match the contribution. The description box says these two former volunteers are willing to match the next $5,000 in donations $50 and above.

The store has been advertising its events and donations through emails, which are seen by about 2,000 people through a mailing list, press releases, flyers around town and Facebook.

The money that is donated would go toward rent while the store is closed and transitioning to a smaller space. It would also pay for necessary reconstruction materials, new books and go toward keeping debt payments at bay while there is no income during the closing.

While there have been financial problems for the past three years, Johnston said, “This summer, we saw potential for this campaign.”

The store offers events for the public; however the events in November could have made more money. While there are not any December events planned yet, there are ideas that are bouncing back and forth.

Johnston goes on to say that competing with the bigger names, like Chegg and Amazon is difficult today, especially because of the easy online order choices.

“I loved going to a bookstore when I was in college. It was very satisfying,” Johnston said.

One of their efforts in trying to be more appealing with students is filling orders online by walking across the street to the post office, and mailing textbooks to students less than a mile away.

Decency is also a factor which Johnston said is an important part of owning a business.
“We have been clear and honest about our store. If we don’t have a book in the store, we won’t advertise for it,” she said.

The store needs $5,000 by the end of November, and the rest by the end of December. Food for Thought’s indiegogo account link can be found on the store’s website.

Catherine Ferris can be reached at [email protected]