Circle Books turned its final page last week when it closed after 13 years on St. Armands Circle.
Owner Eric Lamboley spent all day Wednesday, Sept. 19, calling the store’s regular customers to thank them for their loyalty before closing shop that afternoon. By Friday, the voicemail greeting at Circle Books said:
“I regret that we have closed permanently. Thank you for your patronage over the last 13 years.”
The story of Circle Books followed a plot line similar to that of many independent booksellers.
“It’s the song they’re all singing: eBooks and Amazon,” Lamboley told the Longboat Observer. “But, honestly, retail in general is tough. Everyone wants to buy things online. The last few months really forced our hands. Financially, it just wasn’t feasible.”
Lamboley said that independent bookstores can’t compete with large chains in terms of pricing because they can’t buy in bulk. When each “Harry Potter” book came out, for example, Lamboley said that he could go to Sam’s Club and pay less for each book than Circle Books would pay its distributor.
Lamboley and former co-owner Debbie Stowell worked together at Paperback Booksmith in Sarasota in the 1990s and went on to open Circle Books in 1999.
The store was a popular setting both for local and national authors when they held book signings.
Novelist Tim Dorsey held his first book signing there. It was the store’s first book signing, as well, and Dorsey returned whenever he published a new book, according to Lamboley.
Best-selling authors such as Michael Connelly and Carl Hiaasen often held events there, as well.
But, it was also a place where many local, self-published authors learned the book business.
Longboat Key author H. Terrell “Terry” Griffin, who sold the first copy of his first book, “Longboat Blues,” at the independent St. Armands bookseller, received one of Lamboley’s phone calls Wednesday afternoon.
Griffin said that he self-published his first two novels. The store placed “Longboat Blues” on its front shelves, causing many customers to ask about it. He signed a deal with Oceanview Publishing after Stowell sent the company a manuscript of his third book, “Blood Island.”
“I think I owe whatever writing career I’ve had to Circle Books,” Griffin said. “I feel like I’m losing an old friend.”
Lamboley said that Griffin is being modest when he attributes his writing career to the store.
Griffin and other writers needed advice about publishing, pricing and selling a book, according to Lamboley, but the bottom line was, they could write.
The book store was the only bookseller on the Circle and one of the last remaining independent booksellers in Sarasota.
Lamboley, who hasn’t determined what his next chapter will be personally, described closing as “emotional” but wasn’t considering the store’s closing to be an entirely sad ending.
“Thirteen years for a startup business is pretty good,” he said.