Mr. Paperback stores to close, Magazines Inc. to be sold, 120 to lose jobs

Posted Feb. 24, 2012, at 7:08 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 24, 2012, at 8:54 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Mr. Paperback, a bookstore chain that has been a fixture in Maine for 50 years, will be closing and its sister company, Magazines Inc., will be bought out, an owner of the companies said Friday.

Mr. Paperback’s 80 employees and Magazines Inc.’s 40 employees will be laid off, co-owner Penny Robichaud said. The companies notified their staffs on Wednesday.

“Business is not great. It seemed like it might be a good time to get out,” said Mr. Paperback General Manager Jim McCree. Both companies will cease operation by the end of April.

Mr. Paperback has 10 stores in Maine, with locations in Augusta, Bangor, Belfast, Caribou, Dover-Foxcroft, Ellsworth, Farmington, Presque Isle, Skowhegan and Waterville.

Magazines Inc., which distributes magazines and newspapers in the state, is based in Bangor.

Mr. Paperback and Magazines Inc. are separate companies, but are owned by the Foss family — Robichaud and her siblings Ralph Foss and Pamela Williams.

Robichaud said they are still in negotiations to sell Magazines Inc. to Hudson LLC., based in Worcester, Mass. The company would take over Magazines Inc.’s clients, and move distribution to a Gorham facility. Hudson LLC has no interest in taking over Mr. Paperback, she said, so the bookstores will be liquidated.

“We’re all just wrapping our heads around this this week,” said Robichaud.

“It’s painful,” said McCree. “Over the years we’ve had an extremely dedicated staff — smart people, faithful people. I can tell you it’s been extremely hard on the Foss family.”

Robichaud said changes in the book industry and finances were the reasons for closing.

“It’s due to gas prices and a changing industry — Amazon, the Internet, Kindle — people don’t need the printed materials as much as we used to,” said Robichaud.

“Most of us know that the book business and anything in print is not a particularly healthy place to be,” McCree added.

The companies were started by John and Evelyn Foss in the 1960s and later handed down to their four children. Robert Foss retired, leaving Ralph Foss, Robichaud and Williams in charge.

“I will say I worked with this family for 18 years. They’re very honest and they’ve very ethical,” said McCree. “They want to go about it the right way instead of bailing out and owing a lot of money.”

Robichaud said she’s sad to have to lay off employees of the companies, some of whom she grew up with.

“I’m very concerned about all the employees,” said Robichaud. “We want to make sure they’re going to be OK, because they’ve been loyal to us. We’ve had an awesome staff.”

A rapid response team will be brought in to help train former employees and get them new jobs, said Robichaud.

The announcement comes less than a year after Borders, a national bookstore chain, closed 399 locations, including three stores in Maine and Waldenbooks in Auburn.

McCree said Mr. Paperback stores will start going-out-of-business sales beginning in March.

“There’s a lot of work to closing down and getting rid of everything,” said Robichaud. “We’re going to pay off all our bills and walk out with our heads up.”

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