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Without Borders, Main Line isn't without books

Without major booksellers on the Main Line, indie bookstores are beginning to accommodate community members in their own ways.

When Borders shuttered the last of its stores in September, it marked yet another blow to the once-thriving book scene on the Main Line.

The parking lot adjacent to the Rosemont Shopping Center Borders is now as ghostly as the vacant Borders served as an anchor. And a furniture store has replaced the Borders building at the Wynnewood Shopping Center.

The pages of losses are familiar to local book lovers.

Founders Book Store, which used to be behind the farmer's market in Suburban Square, has moved further to Wayne. And the Ardmore Paperback Book Shop closed its doors two years ago after the owner passed away.

"Sometimes I have people coming in here thinking it's still the Ardmore Paperback Book Shop," said Ann Marie Casey, who now rents the space for her art gallery. "I think they miss what was a little more of a homegrown bookstore."

The hunt for books without resorting to online services such as Amazon has become increasingly hard.

Luckily, Indie booksellers are filling the void.

Beverley Potter owns Title Page, a bookstore that only sells rare and used books in Rosemont across from the old Borders.

"I sold six copies of The Help," Potter said. "I was the last person on the Main Line who had the darn book."

Potter's book-cluttered, checkout desk sits perpendicular to a bookcase stacked and overflowing with more popular titles, such as the Harry Potter and Twilight series. She said she keeps the books upfront because guests continue to ask for them.

Despite inquiries for newer books, since Borders closed, foot traffic into Title Page has slowed.

"It was a very sad thing," Potter said. "If a book was out of print [at Borders], people would see there was another bookstore across the street."

Potter moved Title Page to Franklin Avenue 14 years ago when the space opened up merely because Borders was there. A busy area, shoppers would often end up at Title Page. Potter also grew fond of her neighbors, who would sometimes come over to shop on breaks or after work.

After the two Main Line Borders closed, Heather Herbert of Children's Book World in Haverford had more customers asking for adult titles. Though the 23-year-old store usually exclusively sells children's books, Herbert created a small nook at the front of the store for popular adult titles.

Using weekly bestselling paperback and hardback book lists from a company called IndieBound, Herbert stocks the section with newer adult books, though she often sees older customers wandering into the neighboring young adult book section.

"We were sort of sandwiched between the two Borders," Herbert said. "We always had a very small section of adult books like cookbooks and parenting books, but once Borders closed, we had so many people stopping in and asking us to order books."

With authors from Jeffrey Eugenides to Diane Keaton to David Sedaris, the cramped section fulfills the needs of shoppers who are stopping in with their kids and opens up the shop's clientele to a new, bookstore-less crowd.

Herbert, who helps her mother Hannah Schwartz run the shop, said every time a customer asks her to order a specific title, she'll order another copy because she trusts their judgment.

"All of sudden we're reading adult books again," said Herbert, who tries to sell what she reads at the store.

While shopping at Children's Book World, Lisa Becker, a 63-year-old Merion resident, said although she's trying to lighten the number of books she's acquired over the years, she's at a loss for where to go if she chooses to add to her collection other than King of Prussia. It was the first time she saw the children's bookstore carried more mature titles.

"I have a Kindle, but I'm also a book person," Becker said while holding a copy of Corduroy. "Nothing replaces the feeling of having the book in your hands."

Michael Salsburg's father David opened the Ardmore Paperback Book Shop in 1960 at another time when the Main Line needed booksellers.

"It was the only place you could get paperback books at the time," Salsburg said. "As time went on, you had more chains coming in, but my father's biggest competitor was Founders Books over at Suburban Square."

Though revenue went down over time, the bookstore became a hangout spot for university students, professors and community members. As a boy, Salsburg stocked the shelves, and after his father died in 1973, his mother Jean ran the store until her passing. His brother Danny of Havertown worked at the store until his final days.

Salsburg, who now lives in Phoenixville, Pa., said though the store inspired him to read, he mostly reads on his iPad or orders from Amazon.

"I don't really think about physical books until I walk into a bookstore and smell that smell of new, fresh books," he said.