When Beehive Books closes its doors Jan. 31, the Delaware community will lose more than just a bookstore.
Linda Diamond, who owns the store with her husband, Joe, said they tried to make the North Sandusky Street business the heart of the Delaware community for more than six years. Customers could stop by to chat with friends and employees, grab a bite from the cafe, find tickets for local concerts or look for a good read.
"We wanted it to be a community gathering place," she said.
Diamond said the store's efforts to branch out beyond books and magazines led to a loyal customer base that often felt more like a family.
"We had some customers that would come in more than once per day," she said. "I will miss them desperately."
The owners announced the store's closing in a message posted Thursday, Jan. 2, on Beehive Books' website. Diamond said her husband has been dealing with health problems for the last few months, which has made running the business more challenging.
She said the decision to close the store was not made lightly.
"We've spent a lot of time with the bookstore," she said. "We wanted to spend more time with each other."
Delaware attorney and frequent customer Marianne Gabel said Beehive Books filled a need in the community for a bookstore and a meeting place.
"It was just delightful to get (Beehive Books) there," she said. "We'd been without a bookstore for a long time."
She said customers took pride in supporting the business after it moved in, paying a premium for products that could be found cheaper online or at major retailers.
Gabel said she stopped in for coffee at the bookstore about once a week. Downtown Delaware has other coffee shops worth supporting, she said, but it will be hard to find a replacement for everything Beehive Books offered.
"It would be great to see something go into the Beehive spot that would be a similar community gathering place," she said.
Linda Diamond credits three things for her business' success at a time when many independent bookstores have been shutting their doors: the customers, the staff and the products it offered.
"I think it's because we diversified," she said. "We didn't just have books. We had the cafe and gift items as well."
Still, she said, without a dedicated, passionate staff and loyal customers, the business would not have overcome the challenging economic times.
Diamond said she hopes another business can step up and fill the void left by Beehive Books. She said she and her husband would be open to offers for selling the business, but no such offers have been made so far.
The store has started selling its books at discount prices in preparation for its closure.
Diamond said she has received messages of support and understanding from longtime Beehive customers.
"We're really touched by the outpouring we've had," she said.
Gabel said local residents entered a sort of grieving process when they heard about the store's impending closure. She couldn't help getting choked up as she talked about what the store meant to her.
"Delaware is a fine community," she said. "For a shining moment, we were the best. We had the Beehive."