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Vail’s only bookstore is for sale

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyValerie, left, and her son Cole Littenberg read magnets with quotes written on them Thursday in the Verbatim Booksellers in Vail. The Littenbergs bought the book "Vail: Triumph of a Dream." T
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VAIL, Colorado ” Vail’s only bookstore is up for sale, and its future is once again uncertain.

Owner Robert Aikens is selling Verbatim Booksellers for $250,000, saying he needs more financial security than what the store can provide.

“I just personally can’t afford to take out any more loans or put in any more money myself,” Aikens said. “I’m not going to go on and continue running a store if it can’t survive on its own.”

Aikens faces pressure from big stores, such as Costco and City Market, that sell books, he said.

The business will stay open as Aikens looks for a buyer.

“I would say if it doesn’t sell, it most likely won’t be there in a year,” Aikens said.

Aikens envisions the buyer as a wealthy person who wants the lifestyle of a bookseller ” not the cash flow.

“It has to be somebody who loves books, loves music, loves Vail, who wants to keep a bookstore in Vail,” Aikens said.

Aikens cited Aspen, where the Wyly family bought longtime independent bookstore Explorer Booksellers last year and vowed to keep it open.

This isn’t the first time the future of Verbatim has been in doubt. In 2006, Aikens campaigned for donations to save and relocate the store, which was then tucked away in a Vail Village alleyway. He raised $70,000 from various donors, which allowed the store to move to a new space in the Sonnenalp Resort.

But Aikens said he was aiming for up to $250,000.

“We didn’t raise that, however what it did do is allow us to move into another space, keep the store open for two years or more, get updated computer equipment,” he said.

Liz Clark of Eagle-Vail, a longtime customer who even volunteers to work at Verbatim, said she understands Aikens’ decision.

“There’s very few independent bookstores, and they’re struggling every place, not just Vail,” Clark said.

Verbatim is a valuable part of the cultural landscape of the community, and perhaps government should even subsidize places like Verbatim, Clark said.

“There isn’t an art museum or orchestra in this world that is not subsidized by enormous giving by individuals or government subsidies,” she said.

Aikens, who ran for Vail Town Council in 2005, said he isn’t sure if he’ll stay in Vail. He might work at Verbatim under new owners as long as he could get benefits such as a retirement plan, he said.

But if there’s no bookstore here, he’s not going to stick around, he said.

“I couldn’t live anywhere that doesn’t have a bookstore,” Aikens said.

The closest bookstore to Vail is The Bookworm in Edwards’ Riverwalk shopping center.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.


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