Citing sluggish sales, Black Forest Books & Toys is closing this month after 34 years in Charlotte.
“The economy has just not been good for us,” co-owner Pat Siegfried said Monday. “We’ve had some wonderful, loyal customers, just not enough.”
Though it also sells toys, the store is considered one of the nation’s oldest continually operating children’s bookstores. It opened in 1978, run by Louise Sanford and her mother, Fannie Blackwelder, and operated for years on Cherokee Road in Myers Park/Eastover.
Pat Siegfried and June Hargrove bought the store in 2008, weeks before the height of the recession. Both are former librarians who delighted in matching children with just the right picture book or educational toy. Siegfried served for 14 years as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library’s youth services director.
In 2011, they relocated to a purple house at 1942 Seventh St. in Elizabeth. The move more than doubled their retail space, and they hoped it would increase sales. But a weak economy, coupled with competition from online sellers and e-readers, proved too much to overcome, Siegfried said.
All store items are now at least 30 percent off. Siegfried encouraged anyone with a gift certificate to use it now. The store’s last day will be between Jan. 23 and 26, she said.
A steady stream of customers visited the story on Monday. One, Martha Shelley, said she’s been shopping there for 15 years, since her three children were small. “They just had such a great variety of toys, not to mention the books,” she said.
Shelley said she was shocked and sad to learn of the closing. She and her sixth-grade son had stopped in Monday to see if the store had a copy of Lois Lowry’s “Gathering Blue,” a children’s novel he needed to read for school. It did.