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Borders announces bankruptcy, 200 closings

Customers walk out of a Borders bookstore that

Customers walk out of a Borders bookstore that is slated to close in Commack. (Feb.16, 2011) Credit: Ed Betz

Borders, the chain that helped to pioneer book superstores, filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday and announced it plans to close 200 of its 642 stores in the next few weeks.

The nation's No. 2 bookseller, which was founded in 1971 and has seven stores on Long Island, is closing its Commack and Westbury locations. It is also shutting three stores in Manhattan.

Borders is laboring under a crushing debt and sluggishness in adapting to a rapidly changing industry. The company, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., said it is losing about $2 million a day at the "underperforming" stores it plans to close.

About 6,000 employees nationwide could be affected, including the 31 employees at the Commack store and the 34 in Westbury, a spokesman said. He declined to say what would happen to the employees.

The Westbury location opened in 1994. Some shoppers outside the Commack store, which opened in 1997, were unhappy to hear about the closing.

"I'm sorry that it is closing," said Susan McCarthy, 55, of Kings Park, who was on her way to the store. She said she has for years patronized the location about twice a month to buy books and CDs.

"It's close to my house and it's not as big as some of the Barnes & Noble [stores]," she said.

Renee Hirshfield, 59, of Commack, who was leaving the store with a bag of purchases, also said she was disappointed to learn of the closure.

"Obviously I am not happy," she said.

Hirshfield said she has shopped at the location once a month for years to pick up sci-fi and horror novels because she likes the selection there.

"They have a lot, and they also have a lot of bargain books," she added.

DJM Realty in Melville, which is disposing of the leases for the stores closings nationwide, got 10 calls yesterday from businesses interested in two on Long Island.

"We're getting interest from a lot of different players, from furniture, supermarkets, some of the sizable regional chains," said Andy Graiser, DJM's co-president.

Borders plans to operate normally and honor gift cards and its loyalty program as it reorganizes. Clearance sales at the stores slated to close, including the three in Manhattan, could begin as early as this weekend, according to documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan.

- The company has prepared a Q&A on the closings for its customers and also provides a full list of store closures. That information can be found by clicking on the following link: http://bordersreorganization.com/customerinfo.php

With Ellen Yan,

Reuters and AP

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