A BAM to the Past

The Susquehanna Valley Mall is a focal point of the Selinsgrove town and surrounding areas. It it where all the college kids from Susquehanna University go when they need anything ranging from clothes, to food, to even appliances and furnature.  One big thing we college kids always seem to need are books, whether text books for school, or class readings, or even just casual reads. This is why there is a decently sized Books-A-Million in this mall. It being the “town center” as it would seem, makes it the prime location for a corporate bookstore.

If we look at the history of the area, this mall used to thrive. It truly was the big heart of the little town. Back when it first opened 1978, the large anchor store was Boscovs, as this was at the location and the mall was built around it, and as the mall opened, a Bon-Ton opened.  10 months after opening, J.C. Penny because another anchor store for the mall, making it even more of a popular places for people of all ages to hang out and get to know eachother.

This mall has been a place for more than just the resindents of Susquehanna University. Yes, a large population of the consumers at this mall are college students, you don’t really have to think about why, there is an Aunty Annes, nothing more needs to be said about why this attracts college kids.  But why does it attract regular townsfolk?  They can’t ALL be there for the pretzels. (Although we can hope).

This whole sense of a towncenter can be traced back to the beginning of BAM! as a store. This store was started in 1917, the company was founded in a newsstand in Florence, Alabama. The boy who founded it was the 14 year old Clyde B. Anderson. The store really got its foot in the door when Anderson heard workers complain that they couldn’t get their home papers where they were working.  So what did Anderson do? Well he got the papers to sell them to the workers.  Clyde’s little news stand stood where? You guessed it. At the town center for all those workers who just wanted their local news.

So this mall we have here doesn’t seem to be doing so great, even with all the evidence pointing to it surviving and being the best mall in the entire area because it is right across the street from walmart, and has the only movie theater in Selinsgrove. So why isn’t it doing so well? There isn’t really any definite answer, but I think it has to do with the online shopping industry. With the creation of Amazon and EBay, we can buy virtually, and literally anything you could think of.  You want that shirt you saw some guy wearing the other day? Well you can find that online. You want an everything bagel from Panera Bread? Just look online and you will find a Panera Bread just down the street from the mall, but this store delivers to the college campus, so why would you need to go out and get things in person when you can just buy it online and you can just order it online and it will be shipped straight to your doorstep.

What does every good town square have? A fountain.

I believe that people have just become too lazy to go out and get to know each other in town.  If we look at the Disney movie, Beauty and the Beast, the opening song takes place in the center of the town as everyone sings about how strange Belle is. Now, this might not be the best example to just look at on the surface because they are being mean and making fun of her, but if we look deeper into it, she is very happy with all the people there and seems to get along with them all. She doesn’t see what their doing as being something mean, but just playful banter. And if we look at it, she is friends with all the people in the town. As she’s walking through, the baker and his wife give her some bread and they are happy to see her, and the bookseller talks to her about a book that she loves to read and has read over and over again. He then decides to let her keep it. This shows their sense of friendship and comraderey. As soon as Belle is past the people, they talk about how weird and strange she is, even though they all are happy to see her.

This whole song shows a sense of place that you can find in a quaint little town center. Another sense of place we see here is the bookstore. Well, more specifically the book seller. He has a personal connection with Belle because he visited him every day and would talk to him about the books she was reading. After she borrowed the same book enough times, he let her keep it.

This shows a strong sense of community. Unfortunately, this is not the reality of a corporate bookstore like BAM!  Even if it was still this little bookstore called Bookland like it was so long ago when it first became a corporation in 1964. This happened when Clyde’s son, Charles, inherited the bookstore and turned it into a chain when he opened more stores.  In 1988, the store aquired the Gateway Books chain based out of Knoxville Tennessee, thus expanding their chain even more.  This puts their stores in even more locations and towns.

So why are they failing? My theory is that it is because they took all the locations where Borders was when they closed down. I can see both sides of this. Borders closed, so then there was all that “prime real estate” for a bookseller because that’s where everyone went to buy their books, so since people dont like change, they will continue to go to that same place no matter what store is in it. The problem I see is that Borders closed down for a reason. That reason is bankruptcy, so to me the idea of buying all the locations of a store that closed down seems like a bad idea because the first store went bankrupt, so since you are in the exact same spaces, you will too.

The stock of BAM! Is about $3. Now I’m not expert in the stock market, but I’m pretty sure that you want a higher price for you stock. When the stock of BAM! Spiked back in 1998 up to $47, it was a big deal, but then it dropped back down to the $3 that it started at, just this second time the $3 is worth much less than in 1980.