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Posted at 4:53 PM ET, 09/30/2008

Olsson's, Gone For Good

By David Malitz

I made a rare trip outside the office today to pick up some lunch across the street at Corner Bakery. The restaurant is attached at the hip to a shrunken Olsson's Books and Records location and I noticed a sign in the door saying something like "Olsson's is closed. Thanks for all the ..." OK, that's when I stopped reading and went to get some food. I figured this was just the latest location of the local chain to bite the dust. But it turns out the news was much more dire -- all six five branches of the local chain are closed. Forever. Immediately. Gone.

A press release posted today on the company's Web site lists the reasons you'd expect for something like this: "stagnant sales, low cash reserves, and an inability to renegotiate current leases, along with a continuing weak retail economy and plummeting music sales." The events of the past week certainly couldn't have helped.

Olsson's was sort of in no-man's land, the last of a dying breed -- the local chain. You could always find a place with a little better selection and a little better price, and because there wasn't a single location, like, say, Politics & Prose, it was hard to feel the same connection. But the staff picks were always reliable, they knew what they were selling, and, at least at the Courthouse location, the vinyl selections they kept behind the desk were extremely choice.

We didn't even get one last bargain-bin shopping session. Bummer.

-- David

By David Malitz  | September 30, 2008; 4:53 PM ET
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Damn. Of course I am partly responsible - I stopped buying new books a few years ago and go to used stores or to the library.

Posted by: David | September 30, 2008 5:54 PM | Report abuse

It was David's fault! Let's picket his house! Or favorite library!

Posted by: danj | September 30, 2008 6:26 PM | Report abuse

What I loved about Olsson's:

1) Evident care was taken in the selection of the classical CDs on offer.
2) They had the best bargain books - an eclectic and high-quality selection.

R.I.P., sweet store.

Posted by: Lindemann | September 30, 2008 6:58 PM | Report abuse

:( So, so sad. It's just not Arlington or Old Town without Olsson's.

Posted by: Chasmsosaur | September 30, 2008 7:28 PM | Report abuse

This place was awesome. I am sad. :-(

Posted by: Beth | September 30, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I also looked up this week and noticed the Courthouse location was gone. It seems one must be either a niche player or a behemoth, not much room in the middle.

Posted by: JeffRandom | September 30, 2008 8:22 PM | Report abuse

Olsson's was one of the things I really missed about living in DC...a place where people still read books, where authors were still respected above actors, and where an independent bookseller could thrive. I still visited one of the retail stores whenever I had a chance to visit. How sad to hear of Olsson's closure, and what a loss it is for the city as a whole. Olsson's, you will be missed.

Posted by: Brian | September 30, 2008 8:23 PM | Report abuse

The jazz offerings always provided a new or old release which I could enjoy. The discount books were great gifts and additions to my book collection. I have moved from DC to NYC but one of various things I liked about DC was a visit to Olssons as a welcome respite from work. Another one bites the dust but will be missed!

Posted by: Curtis | September 30, 2008 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Couldn't be sadder - my favorite bookstore in DC. As much quality in their selection as Kramerbooks, but infinitely less frenetic. And the bargain books? Ugh. Heartache missing it.

Posted by: Jenny | September 30, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

What a shame. I've been going to various Olsson's stores for years, starting decades ago with the one in Georgetown. It wasn't a good sign when the store on 7th Street near the National Archives closed this summer. With the large Borders and Barnes and Noble stores downtown, I figured it was just a matter of time. Still, I made a point of stopping in Olsson's to buy books I could have bought online or in other stores, just to support it. Now that option is gone, along with the ability to browse among the shelves and the racks of music. Sigh. I'll miss Olsson's a great deal.

Posted by: EnjoyReading | September 30, 2008 8:48 PM | Report abuse

Saw They Might Be Giants do a show and book/DVD signing at one location several years back. Good store, sure it will be missed.

Posted by: Dan | September 30, 2008 9:30 PM | Report abuse

They had great author and musician signings. Ones I went to were Dupont, 7th Street, and Courthouse ones. I remember going to Olsson's during my lunch break or free time and browsing the eclectic bargain books section. Got a lot of books I wouldn't have picked up through that. Will miss you Olsson's!

Posted by: Kat | October 1, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

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