MEMPHIS — The bookstore owned by Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Memphis may still have a future, despite it being bought at auction Wednesday by a liquidation firm that intends to sell its inventory and close the store.
The company affiliated with the management of The Mall at Lexington Green, which bought three of Joseph-Beth's five bookstores, said it would be willing to make an offer to the liquidating firm for the store if the leaders of the Laurelwood Shopping Center, where it's located, would offer the store more attractive leasing options.
"That store cannot continue unless the landlord desires for it to, and fully participates with the successful bidder," said Lexington attorney Gary Barr, who represents Booksellers Enterprises, the winning bidder on the three stores.
Booksellers Enterprises was registered with the secretary of state's office by Barr, who is general counsel/partner of Langley Properties Co., which manages Lexington Green.
Barr said until Tom Prew itt, the president and owner of Laurelwood Shopping Center, "makes that decision, there's really not much to be done."
Calls to Prewitt on Friday were not returned.
Prewitt had been part of the financing team behind the auction bid of Neil Van Uum, Joseph-Beth's founder and the only other bidder intending to keep the stores open. Robert Langley, owner of Langley Properties Co., had also been part of Van Uum's financing team, the founder said, until a week ago, when Langley called and told him he would be pulling his support and competing against him.
Langley and his partners, whom he has not disclosed, bought the Joseph-Beth stores in Lexington and Cincinnati, as well as a health-themed Joseph-Beth in Cleveland. The Davis-Kidd store in Memphis and Joseph-Beth store in Fredericksburg, Va., were purchased by liquidation firm Gordon Brothers.
Any scenario of keeping Davis-Kidd open as a going concern "doesn't work as it should without Mr. Prewitt's participation," Barr said.
Asked how strongly Booksellers Enterprises wanted to buy and operate Davis-Kidd, Barr said, "There is certainly an appetite for that on the right terms."
Davis-Kidd was the third-highest revenue producer in the Joseph-Beth chain, behind the stores in Lexington and Cincinnati, said Mark Wilson, Joseph-Beth's chief operating officer.
"They have a very loyal customer base," he added.
The next step in the bankruptcy proceeding will be a hearing at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Lexington during which the auction results are expected to be approved.
The Commercial Appeal of Memphis contributed to this report.