John Thomson and his wife Karen Griffin rarely end a day's work with champagne and cookies. Saturday, however, was an appropriate exception.
Thomson and Griffin, owners of Bartleby's Books, closed the door for the last time on Saturday, July 2. After nearly thirty years in the book dealing business, 17 of which were spent in Georgetown, Washington must bid adieu to arguably the last book store of its kind.
"There might be a few stores like this still in New York, a few in L.A., but just for the general seriousness with which [John] takes everything, there's nothing like it," expounds Andy Moursund, former rare book dealer and owner of the now-closed Georgetown Book Shop.
Bartleby's Books, nestled quietly at 1132 29th St. for the past five years, was informed late last summer that its lease would not be renewed due to a fellow Georgetown retailer, Hu's, making a more substantial offer on the space. The resulting deal will bring a Mediterranean-style restaurant to the location.
While there are no more chances to glide down the cluttered aisles, smell the aging pages and walk out with something akin to a first edition copy of Henri Cartier-Bresson's book of photography, "The Decisive Moment" despite intially browsing for something entirely different, this is not the end of Bartleby's. Their permanent address: www.bartlebysbooks.com.
"The website's an organic process," explains Thomson, who is the chair of the Internet Committee for the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) "I'll have to engage myself more than I did when I had a shop."
According to Thomson, this engagement means providing a photo and description for every book in their collection that will appear online, recounting the backstory of their thirty years running an open store, and the ambitious goal of launching a weekly blog that discusses "what we find and how we do what we do."
Since the first Bartleby's location opened in Bethesda, MD in 1984, Karen tallies this as the sixth (and final) move.
With just under a year to prepare the closing, Thomson budgeted the remaining weeks of July for the daunting process of transporting the thousands of valuable books, pamphlets, broadsides and lithographs into a storage unit. A buyer is expected to visit the store this weekend to purchase the majority of "general books" housed in the shop's back room.
"It'll probably be harder than I think it will be, but we'll probably have less moving than we did five years ago," says Thomson, alluding to their previous move from the second story location at 3034 M St, the current site of Juicy Couture.
Thomson and Griffin are preparing for a new rhythm- one that allows for more travel and more book fairs.
"[John and Karen] are the real deal," asserts Moursund, a long-time friend who relished in the remaining hours that the 'last real used book store in Washington' was open.
"He's the kind of dealer who will drive 500 miles to buy 13 books."
Bartleby's will make its first post-store-closing appearance next month at The Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, held August 25-28.
A spread of Baked and Wired cookies, Sprinkles cupcakes, cheese and wine lined the top of a glass showcase by the day's end--brought by the friends and loyal customers who lingered in the entryway. Amid the conversation, Karen fills two plastic cups with Gruet Brut, handing one to a woman across the counter and softly says, "To a new leaf."