Books-A-Million, a/k/a BAM, a Birmingham, Alabama based bookstore, slipped into the Maine Mall under the radar and worked last week restocking shelves, training personnel and otherwise preparing for a soft opening of this national book store. The soft openng happened this past Friday noon, said general manager, Terry Prescott. Prescott was also the general manager for the Border’s store which closed last year.
Prescott who was briefly available for mhn.com said that many of the former Border’s employees were hired to work at BAM. This store opening “brought back jobs to booksellers. We are pretty well staffed,” he said. Asked when the grand opening was scheduled to happen, Prescott said he didn’t know. Prescott said it’s the second largest book chain in the nation, right after Barnes & Noble, although its website said the third largest book chain in the nation. Then he excused himself saying he still had a lot of work to be done and became unavailable to answer more questions.
MHN.com found some of the employees more friendly than management who at times were defensive. Several said it was their understanding that the grand opening was scheduled for Monday, November 7th, although management would not confirm that date – that is tomorrow. A store owned cafe is in the site of the former Border’s cafe, selling Joe Muggs’ products.
Upon entering the store, it’s possible to think you are in another Border’s store. The fixtures and bookshelves belonged to Border’s. However, a closer look at some of the inventory reveals this is no Border’s. Near the entrance there is a large selection of Christmas childrens’ toys for sale. What was the music section in the old Borders is now devoted to Christian Living material; that also includes numerous shelves of Bibles and elaborate Bible covers. When mhn.com asked the information desk where the Bestseller section was located, mhn.com was directed to a small display featuring books by Glenn Beck, Joel Epstein, Billy Graham and the like. A clerk elaborated that these were company bestselling books. Another said this was an “experiment” and that if Bible covers did not sell as they hoped, they’d be replaced with something else that would sell; although the employee did not know what that might be. The CD, music and history sections have been significantly downsized and relocated within the store. Not all of the stock for sale comes under the label Christian Living, but it is an important section in the store.
BAM stated in a press release dated July 25, 2011, that iit had tried unsuccessfully to purchase the inventory, fixtures and equipment from all 30 Borders stores. However, employees confirmed that all the fixtures and book shelves formerly belonged to Borders. Whatever transpired in between was not publicly announced on its web. However, on a list of all its stores, it does acknowledge a store in South Portland, as well as Bangor and Auburn. It also indicates that it operates 231 stores in 23 states and the District of Columbia.
One of the several managers around told mhn.com not to talk to any more employees and my questions should be saved for the general manager, Terry Prescott. But he said he was unavailable to answer any more questions.