One closed Borders is another retailer’s new location

David Weinberg Feb 16, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: If you walk past the building that used to be a Borders Bookstore in downtown Chicago, today you will find an art exhibit in the windows. That’s one way of filling the space that was emptied after Borders closed down all 399 of its locations last year. The question of what would become of these huge big box stores puzzled commercial real estate experts.

And now, as David Weinberg reports, they’re getting some answers.

David Weinberg: Nearly five years before Borders announced it was closing, Rodney Spriggs already had his eye on several Borders locations.

Rodney Spriggs: We were interested in the spaces if something were to ever happened to Borders.

Spriggs is CEO of the retail chain V-Stock, which sells new and used books video games and DVDs. This fall, when Borders went under, V-Stock snapped up three of its former locations in St. Louis.

Spriggs: We actually had the deals done before Borders had even ceased operations.

Kenya Barber: It was a very fast turnaround.

That swift action was perfect for Kenya Barber. She was a manager at Borders for 13 years.

Barber: It was actually pretty wonderful. They kind of rode in like shining knights.

V-Stock offered her a job at the new store and Barber is now a manager at V-Stock. She says this economy is perfect for customers looking to buy used, and for people who need a little extra cash — they can sell their old movies and video games for cash. Barber says the most popular items people bring in are books.

Barber: We had, I believe, over 500 by noon.
Weinberg: Today!?
Barber: Today, yeah!

V-Stock isn’t the only company moving into former Borders locations. National chains like REI, Forever 21 and the arts and crafts store Michael’s are all making plans to lease former Borders properties.

Hessam Nadji: The overall recovery in retail sales over the past 18 months has been strong enough to cause a resurgence in demand for brick and mortar retail space.

Hessam Nadji is the managing director at Marcus & Millichap, the nation’s largest investment brokerage. He says the retail market is rebounding surprisingly fast.

Nadji: The net demand for retail space across the U.S. has been positive for the past seven consecutive quarters.

But Nadji says, many of the Borders properties located in the outer suburbs may have permanently lost their value and could remain empty for the foreseeable future.

In St. Louis, I’m David Weinberg for Marketplace.

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