Unable To Compete With Amazon, Acorn Bookshop Closes Its Doors

Feb 21, 2018

George Cowmeadow Bauman is pretty busy these days. The co-owner of Acorn Bookshop is running back and forth across the store, helping people track down those last few pieces for their library.

“Oh, I love 'Bloom County'—I think we have some,” he tells one woman. “C’mon back through here.”

And just like that he’s barreling down a narrow corridor of bookcases. Once he finds the shelf, he pulls a book out. 

“That’s one of the children’s books that he did,” Bauman tells the customer.

Acorn Bookshop is a secondhand bookstore nestled right between Grandview and Upper Arlington. Their stock is diverse—everything from pulpy paperbacks and advanced mathematics texts to signed first editions and collectible volumes. The books spill out of every spare nook and cranny on the main floor and the basement.

But after a 25-year run, Acorn put everything on sale, and next month will close their doors for good.

Bauman says the explanation is pretty simple.

“My one word answer to customers who ask that question a lot is: Amazon,” Bauman says. “And all that that implies—the online pop culture that we’re living in today where people can order books in their pajamas one day and get it delivered the next day. I can’t compete with that.”

Credit Nick Evans

He believes the convenience of online shopping comes at cost. Readers miss out on the experience of hunting through shelves and plucking out some literary treasure. 

Showing off one of his prize finds, Bauman brings out a German language Jewish Bible with illustrations by Gustave Doré. He flips to a full page plate of Noah’s flood called "The Deluge."

“Look at the detail in this,” Bauman says. “You just—you can see all the etchings that have gone into this.”

The bible is massive—about a foot and a half tall and probably 20 pounds—bound in red cloth with gilt letters. For a volume published in late 1800s, it’s in surprisingly good condition. 

But Bauman explains this one isn’t for sale. His business partner Stuart Wheeler wants to hang onto it. 

Wheeler opened Acorn Bookshop back in 1992, before Bauman came on board. Bauman says its humble beginnings inspired Wheeler’s choice for a name. 

“So he thought, 'Well, let’s call it the Acorn Bookshop because I don’t have much inventory but I want it to grow into a mighty oak of a bookstore,'” Bauman explains.

Credit Nick Evans / WOSU

Up in the front of the shop, Bauman greets customers and trades a joke with one of his regulars, who baked a cake for the staff. 

“Hey, that banana sponge cake was wonderful yesterday,” he tells the man. “And I haven’t gotten sick yet.”

Bauman has worked in one bookshop or another for more than 50 years, but insists he’s not the retiring type.

Acorn is aiming to keep selling books for the next few weeks. Then they’re planning to donate some of their stock to local libraries and prison reading programs, with the rest will going to bulk buyers.

After that, Bauman says he’d like to work on some writing of his own, and do a bit of binge-reading.