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“There are people from all over the world now, and it’s very interesting. The profs and the students all have different perspectives, and it’s always fun sitting here chatting with them,” he said. “I’ve learned not so much facts per se, but empathy.”
Fitzgerald was used to a slowdown in business outside of September and January, but by the end of the slow periods he was always excited for it to get busy again. He was ready to retire, but kept going because he enjoyed the daily routine.
With textbooks increasingly going digital, Fitzgerald knew his business would start to peter off. 2013 was a peak year for sales, and by 2019 they were half that — COVID-19 only hastened the end, he said.
But a pseudo-retirement when COVID restrictions forced him to close earlier this year made him realize the timing might be right.
“I really liked taking several months off earlier this summer and if there’s no sales here, there’s not much reason to be open. I’m looking forward to it now. So for a while I’ll probably just veg out,” he said with a laugh.
Many of the books are going to another retailer, being donated to charities or stocking community libraries. Some will end up being recycled.
A voracious reader, when Fitzgerald isn’t surrounded by books, he makes sure to have one with him. It made sense that connecting people with books was what made the work fulfilling, he said.
“It gave me a feeling of self-fulfillment to just be able to actually help students, especially first year students, who are trying to navigate the system,” he said. “And the friendliness of not just the students, but the whole community and just being able to hear their glee when they find out I’ve got the books they’re looking for.
“I’ve put my time in. I’ve had 33 years here, so it certainly made me a good living and interesting experience. I made some friends.”
The store’s last day open October 23.