Final chapter: Last general bookstore in Kent closing

DOVER — It was far from an easy decision, but Ginny Jewell has decided to get rid of 80,000 or so of her closest friends.

Those close friends just so happen to be books, which have led to many other lasting human relationships over the past several years, as Mrs. Jewell announced last weekend that she plans to close her Acorn Books store in south Smyrna over the coming weeks, which will shutter the last remaining bookstore in Kent County.

“It was a difficult decision. It’s been a long time,” Mrs. Jewell said. “We’ve been open for seven years — we’re on our fourth year here (in Smyrna) and we did three years in Dover. Prior to that we had all worked at Atlantic Books (in Dover), so we’ve been in books for a long time.

“There’s a number of factors why we decided to close. Books have been declining for a while. We have a great group of people who routinely shop here, it’s just that it’s not a big enough market.

“I think the rise of digital is increasing and people are shopping on their phones at midnight and I think that there’s instant gratification. If you want to read something you push a button and you start reading it.”

However, that personal relationship with the customer will no longer be there, and that’s something that Mrs. Jewell, the owner of Acorn Books, her husband Barry, an employee at the store, and another employee seemed to enjoy the most.

They provided more than a bookstore — they were also open mic nights, poetry readings, author signings and everything else they could fit into their little nook of the world.

The harbor of the written word located at 2421 South Dupont Boulevard (U.S. 13) and Big Oak Road in Smyrna will certainly be missed by many, including Mrs. Jewell.

“It is a fantastic place to be in,” she said, of her store. “It’s got good energy, it’s got good vibes and people have genuine enriching good conversation here. We always say we talk … and sell books on the side. It’s the relationships that matter the most.”

Acorn Books’ announcement on social media of its impending closing drew 124 comments as of Tuesday afternoon.

Bridgett Joyce wrote, “Thank you for all you have done for the community. You have touched so many people in ways you may never know.

Wishing you the best in this ongoing journey of life. I will miss the bookstore. But I will miss my conversations (the most).”

Gary Laing said, “Bad enough that the capital city of a state does not have a bookstore but at least Acorn was close. You’ll be missed as the area loses a bit more culture.”

In the end, Mrs. Jewell said they just could no longer continue to compete with the online and digital competition.

“The biggest thing that I can say is that there’s different groups of people who are shopping with us, avid readers who come in and they browse, and they always find something, and then there are people who they need a specific book, and that’s a larger group of people,” she said. “The demographic there is different, too.

“The demographic for avid readers, we do have a mixed bag, but over 60 percent of them are over 60. On the other end of things, if somebody wants a very specific book the prices are really hard for us to compete in that range. I get a certain discount from my wholesale distributor and then there’s a big-name competitor who’s beating their price.”

It’s been an ongoing battle that Mrs. Jewell and her husband have fought for years just for their love of books. She was the manager of Atlantic Books on U.S. 13 in Dover that closed several years ago before she decided to open her own store in the Gateway West shopping center in Dover, Acorn Books.

Mrs. Jewell admits that she puts undue pressure on herself because she does not want to leave her community without a bookstore.

“Things are lining up for us that maybe closing doesn’t have to be something that happens to us, but it’s something we can do for our family,” she said. “I hate that it impacts the rest of the community, the rest of the county.

“Part of why we’ve fought so hard to stay open is because of that pressure – not just the pressure from the public because they want a bookstore to go to, but we really, really love books and we want them to have a presence in the community and in people’s lives.”

Unfortunately for Smyrna — and Kent County — the end of Acorn Books draws near. It is expected to close within four to six weeks.

All the remaining inventory was listed at 30 percent off on Tuesday and the discounts will increase as the books begin to dwindle.

The only extracurricular event remaining at the store is the meeting of the Ukelele Society on Mondays.

“The customers are taking it surprisingly well. I think that says something about the industry,” said Mrs. Jewell. “When we closed Atlantic Books there was a huge stink, everybody was crying, asking what are we going to do, it was horrible. It really affected people.

“Then when we closed Acorn Books in Dover people were, ‘Oh, I hope you can find another place, I can’t believe it,’ but it was a smaller group of people and they had less of a visceral reaction.

“Now that this place is closing what we hear a lot of over anything else is, ‘I’m sad for us in our community, but I hope that your family does well in the future.’ There seems to be a bit more of an acceptance and I think that’s because we’re not in a bubble here, people can see what’s happening to the industry.”

As for Mrs. Jewell, she said she can’t help but to be sad, but excited, at the same time. She has worked in the book industry for the past 20 years and now her future is a clean slate with no clear direction in her path.

“Who knows what the future will bring for us?,” she said. “There is a bit of excitement there that I want to try everything.

“It’s supposed to be this incredible hardship that you don’t know what you’re going to do, and for me, I’m like, ‘The whole world is out there.’

“We’ve been very blessed with the way things have gone. You can’t make a killing in books, but you can make a living … and decided that we just want to live a little more. I think that there will always be a place for books. Somebody just has to find the right way to do it.”

Acorn Books announcement

It is with a heavy heart that we announce that Acorn Books is closing for good. It has been our privilege to serve our community for the past seven years, but the time has come for us to start a new chapter in our lives. We realize this sad news for our community, and we deeply regret any inconvenience or sorrow this news might bring. We have so enjoyed our customers over the years, it is you we will miss above all else. Below is some important information concerning the closing:

• As of (Feb. 16) we will no longer accept books for trade credit

• Customers will be able to use their trade credits until the store is closed

• Everything in the store in 30 percent off

• You may use your trade credits for 50 percent of your used book purchases

• Gift cards will not be for sale but will be honored throughout the closing

• We will no longer be taking special orders

• All special order already placed will be fulfilled

• We do not have an end date yet but will continue to keep you updated as our discounts increase and more things become available for purchase

Thank you again for the privilege of being your neighborhood bookstore. It has been an honor.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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