2011-12-21 / Features

Astoria Bookstore Signs Off

BY LIZ GOFF

A storia’s only independent bookstore is about to write its final chapter.

Seaburn Books will close its doors for the last time at the end of December, the victim of a rent hike, slumping sales and competition from online book merchants, owner Sam Chekwas said.

Chekwas said Seaburn Books opened on Broadway in Astoria 16 years ago and has been losing money for years. The store is located in a high rent area where a high sales volume is needed to make ends meet.

Many customers come to the store asking for digital books for their NOOKs and Kindles, and Seaburn just couldn’t compete.

When Chekwas and his wife announced last year that the store was closing, an outpouring of community support and increasing sales prompted them to keep the store open. “We cashed in a 401K account to pay for improvements, renovations and the introduction of an Internet CafĂ©,” Chekwas’ wife said. “There is nothing more we can do.” Customer Jennifer Blaise said she is heartbroken that the only local bookstore with titles is about to close its doors.

“I’m guilty,” Blaise, 29, said. “I have a Kindle and I love it, but I guess I’m part of a dying breed that loves paper books. They can never be replaced. No matter what ebooks offer, there is nothing like opening a new book for the first time, or turning pages and taking in that book scent.

“There’s just something special about paper and print that makes real books so special, so important,” Blaise said. “I hope someone will realize that we will always need printed books.”

Chekwas said he plans to open a small shop in the Long Island City warehouse he uses for his independent book publishing and online sales.

“We feel just awful about closing this store,” Chekwas’ wife said. “We put everything into it, but the sales aren’t there to support the store.”

Chekwas said the store will remain open through the holidays and will close for good at the end of December.

“It’s like losing a friend,” he said.

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