Delaware’s buzzing Beehive Books to fall silent


January 30, 2014

DELAWARE, Ohio — When Beehive Books opened in downtown Delaware in 2007, its business plan included extra ways to make money — a coffee shop, handmade gifts — and strategies for marketing and getting people inside the independent bookstore its owners had planned.

“We wanted it to be Delaware’s living room,” said Linda Diamond, who owns the bookstore with her husband, Joe.

And for six years, it was. Knitting groups met there. Ohio Wesleyan University professors counseled students there. Stay-at-home moms chatted on the bookstore’s couches while their kids read.

That’s all ending on Friday, when Beehive Books goes out of business.

“This was such a gem for Delaware,” said Katie Steinbrunner, who brings her daughter, 5-year-old Addie, into the store about once a week. “It’s going to be a loss.”

Unlike other independent bookstores that have been run out of business by online shopping or e-books, Mrs. Diamond said, Beehive was a financially viable business. She said she thinks that is because the store also sold handmade crafts and coffee-shop drinks.

The Diamonds, both 65, opened Beehive intending to be silent partners, backing it with money rather than their time. But their manager left for another job, and they found themselves putting in longer and longer hours at the bookstore. Mr. Diamond got sick last fall, and that was the final straw.

“We just decided we wanted to spend less time working and more time with each other,” Mrs. Diamond said.

The problem, said Sean Hughes, economic-development director for the city of Delaware, is that there was no one in place to take over the store.

Running a bookstore sounds romantic: days spent among stacks of classics, surrounded by cozy furniture and stories. In practice, though, it’s grueling.

“This is a hard business,” Hughes said.

Beehive is a place where people come together, and when word got out that the bookstore was closing, a group of about 30 employees, customers and downtown advocates got together to talk about ways to save, if not the store, at least what it meant to Delaware. They had a meeting and kicked around ideas, like a co-op bookstore or new management.

Lisa Ho, an Ohio Wesleyan chaplain who also works part-time at the bookstore, went to that meeting and said that when the group realized the bookstore likely would not be saved, they started talking about how to re-create the gathering place that the bookstore had become.

“Beehive was a place that anyone could come to, from 3-year-olds to 93-year-olds,” Ho said. “So if it’s not Beehive, then what? If we can’t save Beehive, what can go in that space that can foster the same type of vibe that Beehive did?”

The Diamonds own the building that houses Beehive Books, and Mrs. Diamond said they are being selective in the tenants they choose.

No one has come forward with the financial wherewithal to open a bookstore, Hughes said.

In the meantime, the Diamonds are selling everything in the store, from the books people read to the couches where they sat to the espresso machine that made their drinks.

Last Thursday, Mrs. Diamond was in the store, working behind the counter and saying goodbye to customers who she said had become like family to her.

That included Steinbrunner’s daughter, Addie, who ran into Diamond’s arms for a hug.

Addie showed Diamond her Hello Kitty hat, her bracelets, her necklace. They talked about books.

When it was time to go, Addie went to her mom, then stopped and turned back to Diamond.

“I’m going to miss the bookstore,” she said.