TOP STORY, August: Merchants issue rallying cry

 

TOP STORY, August: Merchants issue rallying cry

 

Date: December 31, 2009
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

Throughout the holiday week, YourObserver.com will be counting down the top 12 stories of 2009 (one from each month) from our Longboat, East County and Sarasota Observers. Check back each day fro a reprinting — and any relevant updates — of the biggest news items of the year.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED Aug. 20, 2009


The imminent closure of Sarasota News and Books is leading downtown merchants to hold a rally this weekend in Five Points Park, designed to support local shops and restaurants.

“Everybody is so riled up over Sarasota News and Books,” said Wendy Getchell, president of the Downtown Sarasota Merchants Association and owner of Lotus.

Scheduled to attend the rally, which begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, is Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key. Getchell and Sarasota News and Books co-owner Andrew Foley will also speak to try to persuade residents to shop and dine in local stores and restaurants.

Getchell said there was an outpouring of support this past week for Sarasota News and Books, when word began circulating that it may close.

Foley confirmed Tuesday that the bookstore’s last day of business will be Aug. 31.

For the past two weeks, he had been trying to negotiate lower lease terms to help him cope with the faltering economy. He is currently paying more than $12,000 a month for his 4,740-square-foot retail space on Main Street.

The landlord, Randall Bono, was willing to reduce that to $9,875 per month, which equates to $25 per square foot, but Foley said that was not low enough.

“I don’t think he’s trying to gouge us,” Foley said. “He just wasn’t willing to go as low as we needed.”
Bono did not return messages seeking comment. He has also stopped returning Foley’s calls.

“He may already be close to signing another tenant,” Foley said. “We are devastated. Two weeks ago, we didn’t think it was going to come to this.”

In the face of flagging book sales, Foley had been altering his business plan. With the blessing of his landlord, Foley had architectural drawings made that increased the size of his café and reduced the area with books, magazines and greeting cards.

He also had been working with the city for nearly a year on a plan to create more outdoor table space along Palm Avenue. But, unless his landlord changes his mind, all those plans will end.

But, the closing of Foley’s current Main Street location may not be end of the bookstore.

Foley said several property owners have approached him about relocating his bookstore to their available space.

“We are keeping all our options open,” he said.

In the meantime, Foley wants all the people who have offered him help to keep his store open to put that energy into supporting other downtown shops.

Said Foley: “We hope this concern for the local economy goes to good use.”

UPDATE: The bookstore closed Aug. 31.

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.

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