Just got the news that the SouthSide Works outlet, part of a nine-store Midwestern and Southern chain, is closing its doors.
The place opened six years ago this month.
According to a brief press release, the closing is effective "sometime in November," or whenver it draws down inventory enough.
"The continuing weak economy and resulting sales decline, coupled with economic forecasts for the first half of 2011, represent significant challenges to Joseph-Beth and the entire retail industry," said the release from the company.
If things are so bad everywhere, one wonders, why did the Cincinnati-based outfit just open a new store in Fredericksburg, Va., in May?
At least the Squirrel Hill Barnes & Noble waited till after Christmas last year to put up the butcher paper.
This is crappy news for the cultural scene.
Of course there are plenty of other places to get books these days, from the library and Amazon to used-book spots (two of the city's best being right down the street from Joseph-Beth).
But Joseph-Beth might have been the most active bookstore in the city proper for hosting readings, by both local and visiting writers. It also hosted book groups and such.
In other words, while the smaller J-B devoted proportionately more space to stuff like plush toys and candles, it still did the stuff you're supposed to do to engage the community. And it's going dark anyway.
Even its downsizing from a much larger, two-story SouthSide Works location earlier this year wasn't enough to save it from the slow economy and online retailing and whatever else is keeping people from buying new books in stores these days.
There are a few venues left for that activity -- the East Liberty Borders, Pitt's bookstore, the Barnes & Noble in Uptown, on Duquesne's campus. And Oakmont specialty store Mystery Lovers' Bookstore, which also hosts lots of authors, just celebrated its 20th anniversary and seems to be going strong.
But this leaves a big hole.