Customers lament loss of store

At least $3.2M owed to unsecured creditors

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AS creditors lined up Tuesday, customers at McNally Robinson's Polo Park location were lamenting the looming loss of their favourite bookstore.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/12/2009 (4659 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

AS creditors lined up Tuesday, customers at McNally Robinson’s Polo Park location were lamenting the looming loss of their favourite bookstore.

“That sucks. I thought they were doing well. It’s always busy in here,” said Janice Peterson, who had just come from the fantasy section. “I spend hours in here. When my husband can’t find me, I’m in here.”

Peterson said she stops in weekly to browse or buy a new novel or mystery and was shocked to hear the store is closing.

McNally Robinson, one of the country’s biggest independent booksellers, filed for bankruptcy protection Monday and told staff at the Polo Park location the store would close Sunday. The Prairie Ink café was shuttered immediately. The move, which surprised many, put about 100 Winnipeggers out of work.

The company’s new big-box store in suburban Toronto, open for just eight months, was also closed immediately, leaving only the location in Saskatoon and in Winnipeg’s Grant Park Shopping Centre open.

The company owes at least $3.2 million to unsecured creditors, according to Ernst & Young, the firm hired as the trustee in bankruptcy. Creditors include the country’s major publishing houses and many small Winnipeg firms, from City Press to Gunn’s Bakery.

The $3.2-million figure does not include money owed to secured creditors such as members of the McNally family and banks such as Cambrian Credit Union. It also doesn’t include unpaid federal, provincial and municipal taxes, utility bills and workers’ compensation premiums in three different provinces.

The chain’s co-owner, Paul McNally, declined to comment on details of how the two remaining stores can continue to do business with the creditors they owe.

“I’m an entrepreneur, not a lawyer,” McNally said Tuesday. “This is clearly a legal and accounting question and I’m not going near it.”

Despite the bad news, Tuesday looked like any other day in the Polo Park store. There were a half-dozen people in line to pay, phones were ringing and staff at the information desks were cheerfully answering questions. There were no blowout sales, even in the bargain-books section and many shoppers were browsing the fully stocked shelves.

“It’s the first time I’ve been here,” said James Campbell, who was perusing a book about bridge while ensconced in a comfy chair near the architecture section. “The first time I’d heard of it was reading that it was closing.”

Some have suggested McNally’s decision to expand into Polo Park was a miscalculation — the mall caters to a bigger but more blue-collar customer base than Grant Park, which is nestled in one of Winnipeg’s priciest enclaves.

But customers disagreed with that notion, saying it’s baffling why the bookseller couldn’t make a go of it in the city’s biggest, busiest mall.

“I was worried this would happen in such a cheap city,” said Dan, a businessman who didn’t want his last name used. “People always want a discount.”

Others said it was a foray into the saturated Toronto market, where Indigo and Chapters dominate, that may have been the company’s downfall.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca morley.walker@freepress.mb.ca

‘When my friends say “Where do you want to meet?” I say “McNally’s, McNally’s!” It’s the central spot. Oh, wait till I tell my husband about this’

— avid reader Janice Peterson

‘I love McNally because of their support for local writers. This is a sad moment. This store is so large and it just opened — it would be great if they downsized it into a smaller store’

— Norm Richards, author of Greening of a North Boy

‘It’s scary to hear news like that. It really made me anxious this morning when I read the news’

— Tristin Tergesen, former McNally Robinson store manager, who now runs the bookstore at H. P. Tergesen and Sons in Gimli

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