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Talking Leaves on Main Street to close

Talking Leaves Books is closing a chapter at its University Heights store.

The independent bookstore will close its location at 3158 Main St., founder Jonathon Welch confirmed Thursday. The store is liquidating much of its inventory and will consolidate at the 951 Elmwood Ave. location, which will remain open. The goal is to complete the consolidation within the next three months.

Welch pointed to several factors that contributed to the closure, including changes in the University Heights neighborhood and in book-buying behavior. Many retail stores have vacated the blocks surrounding Talking Leaves, drastically reducing foot traffic on Main Street, he said.

Many college students have moved out of the area, as well. While they weren't a major segment of Talking Leaves business, Welch said their absence did have an impact. Amazon and digital book sales have also taken a brutal toll.

From the Elmwood Village store, Welch will update the company's website and focus more on online sales and book delivery.

"We see this as a very positive step forward, a step into the future," Welch said.

For years, the store served as an alternative to the University at Buffalo campus bookstore, selling textbooks that accounted for as much as 40 percent of the store's sales. But the internet made it easier for students to shop around for used books, making it difficult for Talking Leaves to sell even a quarter of their textbook inventory. In 2012, it stopped selling textbooks altogether.

In the late 1990s, local bookstores such as the Village Green and the Book Revue were shuttered, squeezed by big-box stores such as Barnes & Noble, Borders and Media Play. In turn, those big boxes were walloped by Amazon.

At the same time, mom and pop bookstores have made a comeback in places such as Brooklyn and Washington, D.C. And several local used bookstores are going strong.

Welch hopes and believes that Talking Leaves, like them, can grow and succeed, perhaps for another 40 years.

"There is growth in independent bookstores and it is real and sustained," he said.

Welch said rumors have swirled about the Elmwood Avenue store because of reduced inventory in recent months, but that was due to a different ordering process and a new inventory system. It was not an indication that the store is closing, he said.

Welch and some friends founded the store as Everyman's Bookstore in 1971. In 1975, Welch took over as proprietor and named the store Talking Leaves. The store has moved three times since then, but always on the same Main Street block near UB's South Campus.

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