Monday, June 20, 2011

Bob Slate, Stationer

I just learned that Bob Slate, Stationer, a Cambridge, Massachusetts institution, closed this spring, after seventy-eight years in business. In 1984, when Elaine and I decided to marry, Bob Slate was the obvious choice for our wedding invitations. On recent summer visits to Cambridge, my family would indulge me while I went slightly bonkers buying stuff at Bob Slate. Elaine would go slightly bonkers buying stuff too. Bob Slate’s three stores were a stationery dream: notebooks, paper, pens, pencils, and supplies galore.¹

The reasons for the stores’ demise are the obvious ones: aging owners (sons Justin and Mallory Slate), declining sales, and no buyer in sight. Mallory Slate’s observation is telling: “People spend an hour looking at every fountain pen we have, then they go home and buy it on the Internet.” The moral of the story: paying more at a local store is often in the customer’s long-term interest. If you want, say, a bookstore to browse in, buy your books from that store. That might not be enough to keep the store going, but at least you won’t be helping to bring about its demise.

¹ Supplies is my word, and has become my family’s word, for all manner of stationery items.

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