DuBois: Book Market, Redevelopment Options Forced Kent Store Closure
Howard DuBois said the decision to close DuBois Book Store in Kent was tough
The owner of DuBois Book Store said a combination of a tough textbook market and opportunities to redevelop the Kent store property forced the closure of the 75-year-old book store.
Howard DuBois said in a phone interview this afternoon the onslaught of digital technology, textbook rental programs and other challenges to the traditional book business played a large role in deciding to abruptly close the store Tuesday.
The other factor, DuBois said, was the opportunity to redevelop the large chunk of land the store occupies at the corner of Summit and South Lincoln streets across from Kent State University.
"The book business, it's, I won't say grim, but it's tough," DuBois said. "Sometimes kids can go online and get them cheaper than we can from the publisher, which is impossible to compete against." Combined with the proliferation of E-readers and other devices, "It's a business that's in a real period of change."
DuBois recently bought out the four other shareholders in the family's book business that included two of his brothers and Hal DuBois, the son of the late Fred and Marilyn DuBois. Howard and Fred DuBois' father, Harold, started the business in 1936 selling textbooks at Hiram College before moving to Kent.
In becoming sole shareholder, Howard DuBois said he thought he was making a move to "become the savior" of the book business — particularly for the Kent store.
"In some way, I've then turned out to be the executioner," he said. "I'm enough of a sentamentalist. It wasn't an easy decision to make. But the economics of it, it wouldn't make sense to invest in (the store) to get it up to date."
As sole shareholder, Howard DuBois owns the 18 or so parcels that surround the book store property across from Kent State. That area of Kent was identified in the Kent Bicentennial Plan in 2004 as prime residential redevelopment space with the intent of reconnecting the campus with downtown.
DuBois said he has several redevelopment opportunities he'd like to consider for the Kent property that involve him either selling the land outright to a developer or taking part in its redevelopment, but he declined to elaborate.
"They're just not well enough developed at this stage to elaborate on at this time," he said.
DuBois just turned 87, and he said it's more likely he would sell the land to a developer. He also runs two other DuBois family bookstores, one in Cincinnati and another in Oxford, OH, near Miami University. The Oxford store is about to move into a redeveloped, three-story building with 10 student rentals on the upper floors above the store.
DuBois said it was less a decision of choosing to invest in the Oxford store — which he has run for about 60 years — instead of the Kent store than it was economically based.
"In Oxford, we're in a much better competitive position, and it's a great location," he said.
To make the Kent store more competitive, he said it would take a huge investment in technology and renovations to improve the Kent store's market share.