One Less Children's Bookstore

A Likely Story, a small independent children's bookstore in Alexandria's Old Town district rang in the holiday season by shutting its doors after 23 years.

The Virginia shop closed for good Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving.

In the shop's final newsletter, the owner Dinah Paul wrote: "We will miss seeing the families that have become a part of our family. We have always felt that our store is a magical place and you, our customers and friends, were what made it so special."

The decision to close must have been abruptly as the store's Web site still lists its planned post-Thanksgiving schedule and events for December.

But perhaps most poignantly for followers of the small business world was the store's plea for support. Under the headline "Support Independent Businesses," the staff wrote in an e-mail newsletter to customers: "If you loved A Likely Story, we hope you will remember that you have to support small businesses in order to keep them in business. Locally owned, independent business play a vital role in making communities what they are today in terms of funding, character, and values."

It continues: "As you search for another bookstore/community center from which to bring books into your family, please don't see big chains and as your only options. There are still several independent booksellers in our area."

So Small Business blog readers -- where are you doing your holiday shopping? Are you turning to the convenience of big-box stores or one-stop online shops like Amazon, or are you mixing it up a little and buying gifts from small stores as well?

Please share your comments below.

By Sharon McLoone |  November 29, 2007; 12:35 PM ET
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As small business owners, we shop only in other locally owned, independent businesses--at the holidays and the rest of the year. It's much more pleasurable, and it's certainly nice to be able to support people who are so supportive of our efforts.
We're also part of a local group working to kick off a buy-local campaign for 2008, to remind other residents of the benefits of supporting community businesses.

Posted by: Kim in PA | November 29, 2007 2:00 PM

I can sympathize with the owner of A Likely Story. I owned a small gift shop in Hagerstown, MD for almost 2 years. Piedmont Gifts was a great little shop but without the support of the City or the City's residents, I closed my doors this past September. Unfortunately, our city council is impotent when it comes to promoting our downtown. I am but one of four businesses that have closed their doors in Hagerstown in the last 8 months. What a shame! I encourage all shoppers to visit your downtown shops to keep the American Dream alive.

Posted by: Carlen Loy | November 29, 2007 2:14 PM

Thanks for this article. I love having the little independent book shop down the street from my house, though I must admit that I often turn to Amazon as I do my holiday shopping (I am already on there to buy other gifts). But this article has saddened me while inspiring me. I have 3 birthday parties for little ones coming up, and I am going to head to that little bookstore tomorrow to buy their presents! Thank you!

Posted by: Arlington | November 29, 2007 2:24 PM

For books for grown-ups, it's hard to avoid Amazon and the other big chains. However, for children's books, I do my best to patronize Aladdin's Lamp (in the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center) or Tree Top Kids Books (on Lee Hwy in Lee Heights), both in Arlington. We always buy birthday gifts from Tree Top (toy store or bookstore) or Aladdin's Lamp -- I just bought two more last week.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | November 29, 2007 2:52 PM

Bridge Street Books in Georgetown is tremendous for poetry and cultural theory, while Politics and Prose up on Conn and Nebraska Aves has a great children's book section -- it's half the bottom floor.

Posted by: Rich | November 29, 2007 3:24 PM

I pass by a Likely Story a couple of times a week. I think this past summer they did a remodel. Maybe a bit too ambitious? That might explain the sudden closing. Maybe creditors wouldn't give them more time to pay. Just cut the losses and collect now.

I don't have children, but I'll be honest, most of my holiday shopping is with big box/amazon type stores. It's about the savings. I do spend time in small shops, but savings rule.

Posted by: Tony | November 29, 2007 3:53 PM

Grammatically, wouldn't that be one FEWER children's bookstore?

I used to live nearby and shopped there several times for young relatives. Sorry to see it go.

Posted by: Fomer Old Towner | November 29, 2007 4:26 PM

I'm so sad to lose A Likely Story. I'm particularly sad because I didn't get to do my holiday shopping there this year -- had I known it was closing, I would have made sure to get there. I always do my as much of my holiday shopping as I can at the small businesses in Del Ray and Old Town. The loss of A Likely Story leaves us without an option for children's books in Alexandria other than Barnes & Noble. I would love to find another children's bookstore. I hate the idea of giving my money to the chains.

Posted by: Alexandria VA | November 29, 2007 4:31 PM

Support the small toy stores! We have a very nice one in Kennsington. The quality of the toys is far better than the big box stores and you can always get an excellent recommendation for a specific age/interest from the person working the counter.

Frederick and Arlington (near Ballston) have fine stores.

It's counter-intuitive, but I actually think you save time and money with a toy that fits your child's interests.

Posted by: Silver Spring | November 29, 2007 4:59 PM

I'll miss A Likely Story. I would try to stop in when in Old Town. A small children's bookstore is such a wonderful way to introduce children to books without the sensory overload of a big box store.

I actually did nearly all my Christmas toy shopping for my daughter, nieces and nephews, and friends' children at our local independent toy store. I am lucky enough to live close to Go Bananas in the Brambleton section of Ashburn. It's a wonderful toy store that does a lot to support the local community.

I prefer shopping smaller, independent stores. The selection offered in these stores is more varied than that offered by chains and the experience of shopping is more pleasurable. It's more fun to go from one small shop to another in a downtown area than to go from shop to shop in the mall.

Posted by: Ashburn | November 29, 2007 5:59 PM

This is indeed sad news. When my daughter was an infant, I would take her to the storytime hours. They were very heavily attended. I guess nobody bought anything while they were there. I knew they must have been in trouble when they started charging admission for the storytime. It's exactly like the movie, "You've Got Mail," where the independent children's bookstore is put out business by the B&N-type super bookstore. It's impossible to compete with B&N and Amazon, which have set up one-stop shops for today's busy families. I have to admit that I now take my daugther to B&N at least once a week because she can play in the children's section and read books and I can get my cup of joe and check out books for myself.

Posted by: Del Ray Mom | November 29, 2007 7:45 PM

I am so sorry to hear of an independent store such as A Likely Story closing!!
I agree that we should support our local independent businesses- I shop at a terrific childrens book/toy store in Bethesda,MD. Booktopia has a wonderful array of childrens literature and specialty toys & the staff is great.I always find the best gifts!!(free parking and gift wrap, too)

Posted by: Bethesda Mom | December 2, 2007 9:46 AM

I'm sad to see A Likely Story close, or for that matter, any independently owned store close.

Too often it is much easier to just go to a big box or on the internet to shop. But, please take the time to visit the many many independent stores in the Washington area. Just think, you may even find something you would never find in a big box or even on the internet. Also, money spent in an independent local store tends to return much of it to the local economy.

Finally, children's books (although some lightly or moderately used) can be found at a local used bookstore, Already Read Used Books on Duke Street in Alexandria.

Posted by: Trivia | December 3, 2007 3:43 PM

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