OGDEN — For more than three years, Booked on 25th provided a cozy spot to peruse books, discuss issues, explore new thoughts and connect with other bibliophiles.
But this past Saturday, Ogden’s independent bookstore turned its final page, closing its doors for the last time.
Ogden resident Lutgart Seawell worked for Booked on 25th since its inception in July 2016, serving as manager for the past 18 months.
When asked what she would miss about her job and the space it occupied on Historic 25th Street, Seawell said, “Just about everything.”
Even though the storefront was tiny, Seawell said they maintained “a really good inventory and selection of books.”
“We’ve always tried to have the books that people are interested in,” Seawell said, noting that many Booked customers gravitated to feminism, social activism and an assortment of fiction and nonfiction.
“I feel like we had a real community here. This became the spot where people wanted to come hang out, chat and have their book club.”
In that sense the business was a resounding success.
How it began
Ogden resident Marcy Rizzi said she launched Booked on 25th almost on a whim. Even so, she poured her whole heart and soul into the endeavor.
“I ran out of funding for my student loan, and I was sitting around wondering what the hell am I going to do with my life?” Rizzi said. “And my partner said ‘You should open a bookstore … you legitimately have lived in bookstores your whole life.’”
Rizzi decided to do just that. But she envisioned much more than well-stocked shelves.
“I wanted it to be more of a community gathering spot to share ideas, have a vision, create cause,” Rizzi said, “a place where people could feel safe, enjoy themselves, talk about books and have radical ideas and notions about how we’re going to change the world.”
Those mind-expanding opportunities occurred on a regular basis. And Booked attracted a tight-knit group of regulars who supported the business by purchasing their brain food there.
Rizzi viewed her role with Booked as that of a gatekeeper or “gate-opener.”
“For me it was a cause, not just a place to sling books and talk about deep philosophical thoughts. It was a place to make change in people’s lives,” Rizzi said.
But with Rizzi’s life partner retiring in June, an assessment of the family budget signaled that Rizzi could no longer work without drawing a paycheck — something she’d done since Booked first opened its doors.
In mid-May of this year, Rizzi sold Booked to Scott Glenn, who owns and operates Pioneer Book in Provo, where its larger space and more expansive inventory helped sustain the downtown destination for almost four decades.
Glenn was optimistic when he took over Booked.
“It felt like we did everything we could think of to generate traffic — lots of marketing, and we introduced a new summer bingo program that’s been successful in our other store,” Glenn said.
But August’s “brutally poor sales” dealt the business’s final blow.
“We more than tripled the number of titles that were available. I’m sure some distance and hindsight will help me understand why it didn’t work,” Glenn said. “But I don’t really at the moment have an explanation for why it didn’t. I certainly thought it would.”
The human touch
Many brick and mortar bookstores have crumbled with the rise of Amazon.com, where online purchasing is quick and easy. But Glenn believes independent bookstores fill a valuable niche.
“I think we offer an experience that can’t be duplicated by Amazon. We do things they can’t do, like actually having a personal relationship with the person who’s selling you something.”
But lip service doesn’t get it done, he added.
“You’ve got to vote with your pocketbook. That’s true for all those great little stores downtown,” Glenn said. “They’re not running nonprofits. If they can’t turn a profit and pay their bills, they’re not going to stay there.”
While it’s easy to blame the online giant, Rizzi feels that more support from Ogden’s elected officials could make a difference for 25th Street businesses struggling to survive.
“When your city government isn’t necessarily invested in making sure literary arts is an important factor to their community, why would the community invest when the government doesn’t want to?” Rizzi said. “But perhaps that’s why they become hotbeds of political activism.”
While the shuttering of Booked on 25th brought her to tears — “I’m going to miss the people a lot” — Rizzi now works as a drafting paralegal for Cragun Law Firm, and hopes to one day establish family law clinics for disadvantaged women who otherwise could not afford such services.
On Wednesday, Booked began selling off its merchandise at 50% off.
On Thursday, regular customers Kate Crawford, McKenna Parsons and Jessica Wright dropped by to see what they could find.
“I love 25th Street and it feels like a really cool part of our community,” Wright said. “It was nice to see a bookstore here. I really like the feminism section especially. Not many bookstores have that.”
Crawford also lamented Ogden’s pending loss: “We were really excited when it opened up down here … I’ve been hoping maybe somebody else will take the torch.”