Last week River Bank Books & Music on Monroe Center closed one year after its opening to much fanfare. The local print media has reported this as a sign of the dire state of retail in downtown G.R. Now there is much foreboding as to whether or not downtown can thrive as an urban community. Well, let's take a breather here.
First, what does the failure of one bookstore tell us? Not a lot about downtown G.R. specifically. With cheap on-line and suburban big box competition, selling books is a tough racket. It's no knock against the owner of River Bank Books, Debra Lambers, that her store didn't work out.
And it's not a knock against downtown G.R. either. What works there are those businesses that can turn a buck drawing only upon customers who live and work downtown or come there for special events. This is especially true as the residential community there is still nascent. Over time certain retailers will survive upon that foundation and acquire a reputation that brings in customers from outside downtown. Only then will retailers there include the quirky and the charming that people from outlying districts value in urban neighborhoods.
But that quality cannot be planned, either by the government or private developers such as was attempted with River Bank Books. It can only grow over time. After a number of decades, the fertile soil for that growth -- a diverse residential community -- is in place. Now we need to let time take its course and not read disaster into the failure of one pioneer.