Hooray for Borders Bookstore opening at the deteriorating but full-of-potential corner of Louisiana and St. Charles. I have heard a couple of gripes about it being too corporate for a Mom and Pop city like New Orleans, but for the most part, people are psyched. The excitement is two-pronged: this means, first of all, that New Orleans is a viable place for a monster company to put down some substantial (albeit risky) roots, and it means, second of all, that there is going to be a major bookstore within walking distance of New Orleans neighborhoods proper. New Orleanians are too loyal to their local neighborhood shops for Borders to put them out of business. Garden District Book Shop, Maple Street Books, and Octavia Book Store, in my opinion, have nothing to worry about. Barnes and Noble and Borders on the West Bank and in Metairie have been around for years, and the local small shops have not been put out of business. Complaints being made about Borders seem to be bred out of fear and the all-too-frequent inclination to be curmudgeonly about anything corporate. News flash: America operates on corporate business. Call them necessary evils, but stores like Borders provide jobs, easy access to a large number of books not always available in small specialty stores, and did I mention, this baby's going to have an outdoor cafe on St Charles? If there's one thing this city badly needs, it's more outdoor seating at restaurants. Oh, and also more money, better education, and less crime. But dining in the sunshine is as good a place as any to start.
I'll still go to Maple Street for their signed copies of Walker Percy books, the Garden District for their coffee and excellent selection of cards, Octavia for their New Orleans writers section, and my good old used book stores like Kaboom, Chartres Street, and the little cookbook store in the quarter for dusty books and wierd literary artifacts all under a dollar. But, let's be honest, sometimes corporate is more comfortable, it's easier, and in this case, Borders is supporting a city that badly needs some big guns investment. I'm pretty pumped that the next time I need ten copies of Catcher in the Rye for a class, I'm not going to have to sit in a half hour of traffic and enter the suburban headache of a world that lies outside this little sphere of home.