By BECKY THOMAS
Allan Gainer said he was in denial for much of the first half of 2012.
“We've been in the red for months,” he said. Textbook sales, which make up the vast majority of revenue for the Tree of Knowledge bookstore, have dropped off steadily over the past three years, Gainer said. Gainer and wife Trish tried to add new things to boost business.
“We tried to expand the gifts, we added clothing and expanded the metaphysical (merchandise), we tried online sales,” he said.
It wasn't enough. Earlier this month, the Gainers decided to close their downtown Cheney business.
Discounts on the store's merchandise have been applied, and Gainer said they would likely close for good July 31. It's a sad example of the plight of local bookstores, he said.
“It's the rise of online book sales,” Gainer said. “Students are buying their books online, renting them or just getting the sections they need online. We can't compete in it.”
The Gainers, longtime Cheney residents, opened the Tree of Knowledge in 2004. Gainer is proud of the store's eight years of operation.
“We have been an anchor for retail downtown. Over the years, we've brought thousands of students downtown,” he said.
They enjoyed being part of “the EWU experience,” he said. “It was fun to get to know the students.”
Gainer said he tried to sell the business, but with little interest decided to simply close down. What inventory does not sell in the next two weeks would be sold online, he said.
With the closure of the bookstore, three people are out of work, including longtime employee Rich Baker, who said he was sad to see the store close.
“We were the only real metaphysical retailer in the area,” he said.
Gainer said he was looking for work in the area, with a lead at mega-bookstore Barnes and Noble. He said it might be somewhat sacreligious for a local bookstore owner to go that route, but, “I know books, I love books.”
The Gainers plan to remain in Cheney, whatever happens.
“We'll always be based in Cheney,” Gainer, a former Cheney mayor, said. “This is my town.”
The Gainers thanked local residents who were loyal supporters of the store over the years.
“The journey was fun,” Gainer said.
The store will be open through the end of the month Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 409 First St., Cheney. To reach the store call 559-5394.
Becky Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.