Editorial: A new and exciting chapter for Explore Booksellers — and Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Editorial: A new and exciting chapter for Explore Booksellers — and Aspen

The sale of Explore Booksellers and Bistro on Jan. 16 not only preserved one of Main Street’s favorite haunts for locals and visitors, it also defied a trend.

Actually, it defied two trends, and we see that as a good thing.

The first is the demise of book shops across the country as e-books and online bookstores continue to siphon away customers. Barnes & Noble is the last surviving major bookstore chain in the U.S., while many of the smaller, independent sellers struggle to remain solvent.

Second is the raze-and-replace modus operandi of developers who know a potential for fortune in Aspen when they see one. Explore Booksellers and Bistro is located on prime Main Street property, and the threat of a new owner buying the Victorian-style building and altering its uses and making major alterations wasn’t a stretch.

Bookstores aren’t cheap to operate, and Explore is no exception. The new buyer, a limited liability corporation established by nonprofits under the umbrella of the Public Interest Network, said it understands that reality and it will require additional money for operations.

But this is a nonprofit, and its goal is to break even, as opposed to a private-sector buyer that, even with good intentions, would still likely a need a money-making venture, either through redevelopment or making major changes that could entail opening another business in Explore’s place.

Credit is due to the bookstores former owners, Sam and Cheryl Wyly. After they bought the store nearly eight years ago, there were worries that they would make noticeable changes to the community treasure started by Katherine Thalberg in the 1970s. They didn’t, and the store carried on as Aspen’s living room for book signings and presentations.

Aspen has seen multiple institutions close over the years. Yes, change is inevitable, but the preservation of Explore Booksellers is cause for celebration — and relief.