When George Maaiki, owner of in Greenport, heard the news on Monday that bankrupt bookstore chainwould liquidate their franchise and close all remaining retail stores, including the one in Riverhead — he smiled.
“I’m happy,” he said, making the “cha-ching” motion with his fist in his store Tuesday afternoon.
But, Maaiki added, Borders never really put much of a dent in his business, which has been going strong in the same location for 32 years.
“Since they opened a few years ago, Christmas has been the only time they’ve hurt us,” he said. “People are doing so much shopping then and Borders is just more convenient located closer to Target and K-Mart.”
Though there are many places on the North Fork to buy used books, Burton’s is the only independent retail bookstore in the area. Maaiki, 49, bought the store in 1988 from former owner Joyce Burton, who opened on Front Street in 1979.
Internet book retailers like Amazon.com have been more of a threat to the tiny bookstore, but Maaiki said he’s adjusted over the years. He’s got something for everyone — novels, cookbooks, biographies, self-help and children’s books. But he says that his stock of very localized literature such as historic accounts of each North Fork hamlet and coffee table books of Long Island scenescapes have been his bread and butter and key to survival.
“We have the local books you can’t really find anywhere else,” he said. “We are swamped this time of year. The tourists love us.”
Todd Rowden, a writer from Kansas City, is one of those tourists. While visiting family on the North Fork, he popped into Burton’s Tuesday afternoon. He said that people shouldn’t even attempt to compare Burton’s to Borders.
“This is a local guy who is carrying local books with no bar codes that a place like Borders wouldn’t even think to stock,” Rowden said. “I mean, where else can you find 100 different books on Montauk Point? I love this place.”
Southold resident and reading teacher Tracy O’Lear said that the smaller, more specialized bookstores will survive much longer than the corporate chains.
“People who work at the larger stores don’t have as much of a knowledge base as the smaller bookstore owners,” she said.
With almost three decades under his belt, Maaiki said he has no plans to close his doors any time soon.
“We were around way before Borders, and we’ll be around a lot longer,” he said.