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Aliens & Alibis, Capitol Centre: Mid 2000s   8 comments

Posted at 2:23 am in historic,stores

I can't quite recall which storefront in the now largely defunct Capitol Centre plaza behind Columbia Mall housed Aliens & Alibis, but it was one of the ones pictured here.

Aliens & Alibis was the right store at the wrong time. It was a book store which as the name suggested, concentrated on science fiction and mysteries, something I would have been all over in the 70s or 80s. In the event, I think I went there twice. They had some nicely offbeat SF and mystery books -- things like art books of classic pulp covers and small press editions of classic authors -- stuff that wouldn't show up at Waldenbooks.

Unfortunately, they started not in the 70s or 80s, but in the 00s, and the market had completely changed. First, Waldenbooks and The Happy Bookseller were no longer the main in-town competition. Both of those stores were relatively small spaces and simply couldn't stock obscure genre books in depth. That wasn't true, though, for big-box booksellers like Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million. Second, there was The Internet and the Amazon.com juggernaut. Now virtually any obscure small-press reprint or obscure new book by your favorite (though bottom list) author was available with a mouse click and suddenly the only thing a store like Aliens & Alibis had going for it was the serendipity factor -- going in and seeing something you didn't know existed, and that just wasn't enough, especially in the face of Amazon's improving "you might like this" technology, and internet discussion groups. I saw the same thing happen to Atlanta's Science Fiction and Mystery shop several years earlier, and was actually a bit surprised to see a Columbia operation try the same thing.

I believe that after the shop left Capitol Centre, it went to Garners Ferry and then became a web operation which is probably the only way to do it now, and good luck to them.

Written by ted on March 27th, 2009

8 Responses to 'Aliens & Alibis, Capitol Centre: Mid 2000s'

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  1. Hey! I'm sitting here reading through your blog - found it in relation to D's Wings on Beltine closing and I figured it looked interesting, so I started at the beginning and kept reading... little to realize you'd mention our store!

    Opening a bookstore was kind of a joint dream between myself and my mother, both voracious readers - I was the Science Fiction half of A&A, with Mom being the Mystery expert. I believe our opening day was May 1st, 2005, and we had great things planned for the future. Unfortunately, I see from other entries here that Capitol Center was a bad place to pick for a store - had we but known that at the time, with the landlords talking about the improvements they had planned for the plaza and the great things they foresaw for the area. YEAH, RIGHT.

    We really thought what we'd excel at as opposed to the big-box stores or Amazon would be hands-on bookselling - customer service, the ability to direct someone to something we'd read ourselves and felt they'd like. Sadly, it didn't work that way. And Capitol Center is not business-friendly; the game store down a few doors from us closed before we did and La Caja, the restaurant over by the dead movie theater, closed not long after we left. (We felt really bad for them - they had spent a LOT of money on the place, and had excellent food.)

    We did indeed move from here to Garner's Ferry in 2006, where we languished in a space too far off the road to be visible and where we finally conceded defeat in December 2006. We sold our new-book stock to Powell's, gave away most of our advanced reading copies publishers had sent us, and brought the shelves and fixtures home as well as the used-book collection which we are trading off on Paperback Swap (www.paperbackswap.com). We both agree, even though it was a failure and we're still paying off debts even now, we learned a lot about publishing and book selling, met a lot of great customers and authors, and we'd do it all over again if we had the chance. (We still look wistfully at empty store fronts even now and wonder how a bookstore would do in that space...) You have an excellent point about on-line sales, though, and while we would love another chance we look at all the bookstore closings locally & nationwide (even Happy Bookseller finally went under!) and realize that it just wasn't to have been.

    By the way, our two bookstore cats, the mother and son Siamese team of Serena and Bertram, moved home with us when the store closed and thrive among our other pets... well, they suggest we get rid of the dogs, but cats, go figure, huh? ;)

    Gary McCammon

    8 May 11 at 9:26 pm

  2. Oh! The storefront - in the second picture, it's the double doors just to the left of the concrete arch in front of the white car.

    Gary McCammon

    8 May 11 at 9:32 pm

  3. Thanks for the info! It's amazing how much the retail environmnet has changed over the past 15 years. Glad the cats are ok..

    Capitol Centre continues to decline I'm afraid.

    ted

    8 May 11 at 9:38 pm

  4. Capitol Centre...I don't know if it was here, but I recently came across an article indicating that Service Merchandise was in Capitol Centre at one point but I am having a hard time placing it based on the writeup. Reading this makes me wonder if this is the place where Circuit City was before moving out to Sparkelberry Square or am I thinking of another location...

    Andrew

    8 May 11 at 11:20 pm

  5. Service Merchandise was next to Circuit City and I think it closed in the late 90s. I can recall being in there around 96.

    Mr Bill

    9 May 11 at 11:54 am

  6. Yeah, I think it's a furniture store, now.

    badger

    9 May 11 at 12:21 pm

  7. Whee! That's the furniture store we bought a chair for the bookstore from (the same chair I now sit in) and the schmucks charged us beaucoup bucks to deliver it... across the parking lot. *groan*

    Gary McCammon

    9 May 11 at 6:39 pm

  8. Great to see the update on the bookstore cats-- I searched this location just to comment on how much I liked them. :)

    Misha

    25 Jan 13 at 10:13 pm

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