There’s one chance Wilmington will keep its book shop

James Watson of Wilmington buys some books from Gemma Buckley during the closing sale. Buckley and her husband Jack, far left, have operated the Ninth Street Book Shop since 1979. Photo credit: Luigi Ciuffetelli

The Ninth Street Book Shop, the city’s only general interest bookstore, will close January 26, but there’s a chance it will be revived in the spring.

A group of investors – writers, artists and a professor from the University of Delaware’s satellite city campus –hopes to find money and a manager so it can reopen the store in the coming months. The group is the last of about 18 prospective buyers who showed interest in taking over last July when the owners announced plans to retire by this month.

Jack and Gemma Buckley, who have operated the store since 1977, said the prospective buyers would like to host readings, art shows and poetry slams at the Market Street shop. Jack Buckley said Buccini/Pollin, the landlord, has agreed to allow the couple to keep the furniture and fixtures in the shop until it’s clear if the property will remain a bookstore.

Meanwhile, the Buckleys plan to retire on Jan. 26. A customer suggested the couple put out a memory book for long-time customers to sign. The volume quickly filled up with good wishes, including this one: “How ironic. Here I am, a fellow who reads dictionaries and thesauruses to be at a loss of words at a time like this.”

Gemma Buckley said long-time customers have been coming in to say goodbye with younger family members in tow.

The Buckleys said the prospective buyers have asked them if they would serve on a board to help launch the successor store, and they agreed.

The Buckleys reduced prices 25 percent this week, and they’ve been busy sending returns to publishers. “We’re sending back by the day. We’re selling off by the day. Next week, we go to 50 percent. It will move pretty fast by then,” Jack Buckley said.

The customers have been just unbelievably great the last few weeks,” he said. “They’re buying stuff they probably don’t even need, but they’re buying it anyway, just to help us.”

Where would book lovers go if Ninth Street shuts down permanently? “I honestly don’t know,” said John Anklin of North Wilmington, who started coming to the shop decades ago when he worked at Superior Court.

Gemma Buckley said she hopes the group of investors is able to keep the store open: “It would be wonderful for the city,” she said.

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