Rock Point Books, one of the last remaining independent bookstores in Chattanooga, will close its doors in early December after four years in business on Broad Street, according to co-owner Albert Waterhouse.
The store opened in 2006, shortly before the nation's economic slump, and has faced stiff competition from online booksellers like Amazon.com and e-readers like the Kindle and the iPad, Waterhouse said.
Rock Point was also home to the MoonPie General Store, which will reopen Nov. 17 in Clumpies Ice Cream Co.'s shop on Frazier Avenue, according to a news release.
The largest independent bookstore in Chattanooga initially found success with author readings and book signings, and the store played host to political forums and writing workshops, the release said.
"We started off strong, and the author readings were responsible for moving a lot of books, but as the economy collapsed two years ago, we saw the direct response of that," Waterhouse said.
Kim White, president and CEO of River City Co., said that while she is saddened over the closure, it is more a reflection on the state of the book industry than on Chattanooga.
"Anytime a retailer closes it's too bad for downtown," she said, but noted, "It gives us an opportunity to get something great in there; it gives us an opportunity to attract another retailer."
White said that there is still a need for a store that sells new books downtown, though with the closure of Rock Point Books, few such stores remain in the area. Others such as 17-year-old Books Never-Ending in Rossville, Ga., have benefited from recently released youth-orientated tomes such as the Harry Potter series, employees say.
Still, Books Never-Ending is "hanging by a thread," according to owner Danielle Hargis.
"I don't think anyone has found the key yet to staying afloat," Hargis said. "We always urge the public to support the local businesses, because they won't be there anymore unless they do."
John Clark, president of Lincoln Partners, owns the building being vacated by Rock Point Books, and said he is "wide open" for future tenants.
"That is a prime location in a very successful downtown area, and we feel that it would be a great location for a large retailer or restaurant," he said.
While Waterhouse said online bookstores will dominate the field, he still thinks "there is a niche for a bookstore in Chattanooga," he said, adding: "I'm gonna be back."