Olsson's No More

An "organized wake" was planned in Dupont. (2000 Photo By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post)

Local book and music purveyor Olsson's shut its doors after 36 years on Tuesday.

On its Web site, the company said it has petitioned federal bankruptcy courts to change its bankruptcy status so that it may liquidate its assets.

"Although it is certainly a sad day for us, I can rejoice in all the great memories of my life in retail in Washington," said founder John Olsson, who began selling books and records in the District 50 years ago.

At its apex, Olsson's had nine stores. But the loss of music sales to big-box retailers and the Internet severely cut into its business, and the company had downsized over the past six years. It closed its Penn Quarter store in June, after Olsson said the rents and overhead became too expensive. Its five remaining stores were in Crystal City; Reagan National Airport; Arlington's Court House area; Old Town Alexandria and Dupont Circle, the oldest location.

Stephen Wallace-Haines, Olsson's general manager, said the company made the decision to close when it became clear that they would not make it through the end of the year, a time when bookstores would normally begin making their profit.

"In the end, all the roads towards reorganization led to this dead end: We did not have the money required to pay for product in advance, to collect reserves to buy for Christmas and satisfy the demands of rent and operational costs," Haines said in a statement. "We were losing money just by staying open."

Two of Olsson's biggest creditors, Random House and Penguin Group, as well as Hachette Book Group, called in debts in June, petitioning the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Greenbelt to place Olsson's in involuntary Chapter 7, which would force the company to liquidate. Two other creditors also hold claims on the company's book and music inventories.

Style staff writer Bob Thompson penned an appreciation of the chain:

"It's hard to miss what's been happening to bricks-and-mortar booksellers around the country," Thompson wrote. "Hey, even big, bad Borders looks extremely shaky these days. But I'm in denial about this one."

By Dan Beyers  |  October 1, 2008; 8:55 AM ET
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

There's less and less of a reason to go to DuPont anymore. It's becoming more touristy by the month. No atmosphere.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 3, 2008 9:49 AM

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