My Sisters' Words Ends an Era
People often want a sound bite explanation of why the store is closing, said Mary Ellen Kavanaugh, owner of My Sisters' Words -- The Next Wave in Syracuse, New York. "But there's never one simple answer," she said. "It's a whole mix of culture, economics, the times we're in, all kinds of things. And how all of these things intersect with the bookseller's personal life." After 16 years, the bookstore will shut its doors, leaving central New York without a feminist bookstore.
The small (650-square-foot) store is located in a Victorian house built in 1896, which, Kavanaugh joked, wasn't nearly as charming during a Syracuse winter as in early fall. In an attempt to boost sales, My Sisters' Words had recently morphed from a feminist bookstore to a general bookstore. It was, according to Kavanaugh, one of only two feminist bookstores in New York and had been the oldest surviving one. The other feminist bookstore is Bluestockings Women's Bookstore in New York City, which came close to closing in February 2003, before being purchased by new owners.
My Sisters' Words will close on November 23. Kavanaugh plans to have a progressive sale that she's calling "the end of an era sale," a term she borrowed from Boston's New Words. "I hate words like 'liquidation' or 'closing,'" said Kavanaugh. "I intentionally chose November 23 because I wanted to express thanks. I wanted people to feel grateful that [our years here] have been a harvest, but to also remember that our celebrating is a harbinger of a barren winter. It's been a wonderful experience for me and the community, and I want it to end on that note."
Although Kavanaugh has no plans for My Sisters' Words to continue in another form or place, she told BTW that she loves the book industry and has begun to pursue ways to stay in it. In what capacity she'll stay involved "has yet to be revealed," she said. "But after being in the industry for a lot of years and having been on the ABA Booksellers Advisory Council and the Feminist Bookstore Network Steering Committee, I feel I have a number of connections in the industry around the country."
On a reflective note Kavanaugh said, "One thing I love about booksellers is they take the time to explain. They don't talk in sound bites. I encourage booksellers to keep doing it whether it's about the Patriot Act, the economy, pieces of education . I encourage them to continue to explain the complex issues." --Karen Schechner