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This article was published 3/1/2010 (4278 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
She says it with a sheepish grin, a hushed voice in a tone laced with pangs of guilt.
"I like to come in here but I don't buy a lot of books," Jackie Melnyk says. "I'm probably part of the reason they're closing."
Melnyk was one of dozens who lounged in McNally Robinson Polo Park's plush sofa chairs for the last time Sunday afternoon.
The Free Press first broke the news last Tuesday that McNally Robinson, one of the country's biggest independent booksellers, filed for bankruptcy protection and told staff at the Polo Park location the store would close Sunday.
Though Melnyk admits she doesn't buy books often anymore, the "avid user" of Winnipeg's libraries said McNally's woes are unfortunate.
"It's really sad. I appreciate their support of local authors, and they always have a ton of free events," she said, adding she doubts major local competition can fill the void. "I don't see the fine folks of Chapters putting on as many."
Dozens of people drifted through the store, visiting to scope out any last-minute deals. A handful of people were waiting in line at any given time, and employees tended to customers' concerns. Some customers were surprised to learn the store was closing
However, most of the bookshelves remained packed -- even the bargain section with books for less than $10.
"I'm sorry to see it go," said Esther Warkentin, who dropped by the store to pick up books for an upcoming trip to Mexico. "I told my husband I was dropping by to see if there were any deals.
"I love reading and we're going away for awhile, so I'm stocking up," she said.
The store's closure, which surprised many, put about 100 Winnipeggers out of full-time and part-time work.
The store was started in 1981 by Paul McNally and his wife, Holly. They opened the Polo Park location in April 2008 after closing the shop in Portage Place mall downtown.
The company's new big-box store in suburban Toronto, open for just eight months, was closed immediately. The closures leave only the location in Saskatoon and Winnipeg's Grant Park Shopping Centre open.
Co-owner Paul McNally admitted opening two new outlets during a recession was a costly error.
"It was bad timing, that's for sure," he said in an earlier interview.
Part of that struggle comes from a major spike in Internet book sales. The American online bookseller Amazon announced last weekend it sold more e-books on Christmas Day than it did paper books. This was seen as the buoyant consumer response to the company's new Kindle electronic reader, a top-selling Christmas gift.
But Warkentin thinks bookstores like McNally are far from seeing their last day.
"There's still too many of us who like to read an actual book than go on the Internet and read electronically," she said.