Widower raises $2 million to buy bookstore | AspenTimes.com

Widower raises $2 million to buy bookstore

John Colson

Bill Stirling says he has received some $2 million in pledges toward the ultimate purchase price of Explore Booksellers, which went on the market last month for $5.2 million.”We’re 40 percent of the way there,” Stirling said Monday, adding that he knows he passed his self-imposed Sept. 8 deadline to raise the money.That deadline, he said, was “just a date that I set. It wasn’t set in stone. It was my trying to get everybody going on it as fast as they could.”Stirling has said he wants to raise the money to buy the bookstore from the estate of his late wife, Katharine Thalberg, who died in January.The store, a combination bookshop, vegetarian bistro and gathering spot, has become a popular local institution in its three decades of operation. It is located in a historic Victorian house on Main Street. The impending sale of the property has prompted community concern that a buyer might not be interested in maintaining it as a bookstore.Since Thalberg’s death, her daughter Brooke Anderson, who works and lives in Washington, D.C., has run the store. Anderson announced in August that she and her two sisters, Ashley and Deva, could not continue to run the store despite their pledge after Thalberg’s death to keep the business running.Stirling said he was encouraged by the reaction of the City Council last week when he broached the subject of a $2 million “bridge loan” from the city, to give him more time to raise the money in his quest to save what he termed “one of the last, best places” in town.The council declined to act on his request, which he made when he had pledges for 30 percent of the purchase price, but some council members indicated they might be willing to make a deal of some sort to help keep the bookstore as a community asset.Stirling is acting as the buyer’s broker in the deal, representing himself and whomever he convinces to invest in the store. He pledges to donate his commission on the purchase, estimated at $150,000, to a special fund dedicated to making improvements to the store or to other public-oriented accomplishments.Also in the wings is a group of Explore employees interested in raising some of the money for the purchase.Stirling said that, given the fact that it has taken him two weeks to raise the pledges he has now, he is not likely to renew his request to the city soon.”If I need to,” he said, “it would probably be sometime in October.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com

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