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Borders Patrol

Seven Days readers sound off on how to fill a Church Street vacancy


Published August 17, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.

The soon-to-be-vacant Borders bookstore on Church Street
  • The soon-to-be-vacant Borders bookstore on Church Street

In February, the Borders Group went belly up, declaring bankruptcy and closing stores around the country. The Burlington outpost of the behemoth bookseller was temporarily spared from closure until mid-July, when the company announced it would liquidate its inventory after failing to find a buyer for all that stock. The shuttering of Borders on Church Street means a couple of things. One, Burlington will no longer have a purveyor of new books. And two, there’s going to be an awfully big space to fill on the city’s main shopping thoroughfare. Twenty thousand square feet of retail space, to be exact.

We wanted to know what Seven Days readers would like to see taking over the Borders building, so last week we put out a call on Blurt, our staff blog, for your best ideas. As long as none of them was Target. Not that we have anything against Walmart’s bourgie cousin, but it’s not going to happen, no matter how much some of you want a Tar-zhay in town.

More than 50 of you dutiful readers answered. Your suggestions ran the gamut from ridiculous (a “Quartorium,” where every type of coin-operated machine could be found), to earnest (an adult-education center that would teach sustainable-living skills to the city’s underserved population) and everything in between, including a whole lot of votes each for Trader Joe’s and H&M.

Here are your proposals. Maybe one of them will inspire the owner of the looming edifice at 29 Church Street. Or maybe we’ll just get a Big Lots.

Mini velodrome

Another bookstore


The Quartorium, where quarters rule

Bar/music venue/arcade/laundromat/boccie and shuffleboard all under one roof


Chasman & Bem (indie bookstore that used to be in Burlington)


My Little Cupcake

Trader Joe’s

A place to publicly tar, feather and boil in oil politicians

Not a restaurant

Bring back North Country Books on the first floor and have a badass restaurant on the second floor, with access to a rooftop area for nice weather.

Either a Forever 21 or an H&M — both are needed in Vermont

A Burlington-sized version of Faneuil Hall

Bring back Samsara Café (in that space pre-Borders). While we’re at it, let’s bring back all the cool stores that have closed.

Wine bar and jazz club

A luxury homeless shelter

An oxygen bar where we can recover from all the cigarette smoke … along with saunas and hot tubs and qigong classes. And, yes … music!

Apple Store

Something with a long slide into a ball pit

I’d love to see a tuition-free education center that offers life-skills and betterment courses such as smart finances, living frugally, nutrition, exercise, etc. Or courses that bolster a person’s chances of obtaining employment. Something that would substantially give back to the community instead of a corporate business that doesn’t give a damn about people in Burlington.

More parking

How about some indoor ice climbing?

An enormous liquor store

Powell’s Used Books

I agree with the suggestion of an Apple Store. Burlington is home to rich college brats and plenty of “hipsters” who are all longing for their personal mecca: THE APPLE STORE. The 20,000 square footage might be too much, but perhaps Burlington can be home to the first mega-awesome-super-sized Apple Store. HA. Also a liquor store, brilliant idea. I would also like to put the thought out there: a fitness center. A new, very hip fitness center. With a health food café, perhaps, and things for everyone. I think a two-story fitness center would be lovely.

An Apple Store would be cool, but it will never happen with Small Dog already established in Vermont. Vermonters love their local shops too much to welcome an Apple Store. Therefore, H&M would be cool.

An extension of the YMCA. The Burlington location is outdated and an eyesore on the inside. I absolutely love the staff and feel of the Winooski Y and think something like that on Church Street would do great year round since parking is so close.

Why not a real transit system with bike lockers, showers, car share, etc.?

No Apple Store, no fashion stores. There is a Small Dog for Apple and plenty of fashion elsewhere. Something that benefits a lot of people should go in there.

Why not have CCTA take over some of the space to use to expand their transit station already on Cherry Street? People could REALLY use a warm place to wait for their buses in the winter.

A giant poutine bar

Eeylops Owl Emporium & Honeydukes Sweetshop. But seriously, I’m digging the YMCA idea.

How about a multiuse studio space for artists to rent for photography, painting, and promoting and selling their work?

A great big vegetarian emporium

An education center where people can learn to be more sustainable. With cooking classes, canning and preserving classes, and animal-processing classes.

What is H&M? Top hit on Google is some sort of clothing store. If that’s what you’re talking about, the mall is just down the street. The last thing we need on Church Street is yet another restaurant, bar or jewelry store.

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