I fondly remember when Borders opened its first (and arguably most famous…I mean, I didn’t even know Parkway Parade had one till I randomly visited the mall one day last year) branch, all the way back in 1997. As a bookworm brought up in a land where the biggest two book store options consisted of a mega-franchise that focused more on stationery and horrifying assessment books or a way smaller chain with a limited range, no store aesthetic and sometimes grimy books (since it focused more on renting books than selling them), Borders Singapore represented something never seen before – an overwhelmingly large store size; a (then) impressive range of shiny new books; comfy, inviting decor; soothing music; friendly, knowledgeable staff (as opposed to the “Oh, whatever we have is on the shelf *lazy wave of hand in general direction*” I’m sure most of us have experienced at some time or other at one of the others) and a cafe – it wasn’t just a big book store (definitely not this way, at least), it was an entire experience.
Although bigger, flashier (and more well-stocked) chains later opened up and the increasing bustle of teenage/adult life left me with less chances and time to visit it, it’s still always held a special place in my heart (much as, cheesy as it sounds, a first-love). I might have gone to Kino for its incredible selection but that didn’t mean I didn’t hop into Wheelock Place every opportunity I got, if just to visit a place that held awesome (if not terribly distinct) memories.
Of course, that didn’t mean I was blind to its decline since its heyday. Even before its parent company in Australia declared bankruptcy (although the Singapore branch maintained their autonomy, there was nonetheless this feeling of uncertainty amongst its customers or, at least, me), the branch had obviously seen better days. The shelves were half-empty, the range pitiful, many of the available books in decidedly un-mint condition and it seemed that the store runners had abandoned any effort of keeping the place up. And, although its recent closure was attributed to a rental dispute rather than bankruptcy and it could be that it could return someday, it seemed as final a nail in the coffin as anything.
So, to Borders Singapore, it’s been a wild (if ultimately anti-climatic) ride, man. I’ll miss you.