Buckhead Borders, a neighborhood gathering spot and center for cultural events, will close by the end of May, the company announced.
"We're sorry to lose it because having a bookstore is like having a good hardware store or barbershop; it's a sign of a good community," said Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition. "I do regret they're closing."
Massell said the Buckhead Triangle store, 3637 Peachtree Road, faced strong competition from the Barnes & Noble just south up Peachtree at the Peach Shopping Center.
A Borders spokesperson said the Buckhead Borders, which joins several others to close in metro Atlanta, has 27 employees. "It was one of the stores that we've been looking to get concessions from our landlord, and we were unable to do that, so we had to add it to our closing list," the spokesperson said. The company, struggling against tough competition from online retailers and e-books, recently declared bankruptcy.
Store manager Laurel Gauthier was unavailable Friday, and a store employee refused to comment.
The store had few customers Friday afternoon. One customer, B. Thorton of Bookhaven, who wouldn't give her complete first name, expressed surprise at the news.
"I think it's a shame," she said. "It's very heavily used by neighborhoods nearby and travelers in Buckhead at the Lenox hotels. It offers excellent service. I hate to see it go."
The store, which offered weekly events such as story times for children, readings and book signings, gained widespread attention in December when former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush appeared there to sign their respective memoirs, drawing huge crowds.
The closing will add more empty space to the Buckhead Triangle, where a store vacated by Circuit City remains empty. A yogurt shop recently opened next door to Borders.
Despite news of the closing, Massell remained upbeat about Buckhead's retail climate.
"The demand is coming back," he said. After a surplus of supply during the recession, "you're not only see more demand for space, which will start filling vacancies, but an upgrade of the tenant mix and price," he said.
As the economic downturn brought lower rents, he said, "there have been some stores rented that you would probably classify as non-Buckhead image," he said. "They couldn't get in Buckhead because the rents were so much higher. We have some stores that you wouldn't have seen three years ago, five years ago even. We're going to see that changing back; quality is going to be the password."