LAREDO, Texas — Mary Benavides steps from behind the cash register several times a day to embrace the mourners.
For more than 30 years, she has managed the mall’s B. Dalton outlet — the only bookstore in Laredo. It will close next month.
All B. Daltons nationwide are closing, as corporate parent Barnes & Noble shutters the chain. In this era of mega-bookstores with cafes and cozy couches and 150,000 titles — and with more than a million books available online — B. Dalton’s cramped outlets no longer make economic sense.
So the bookstore here in Mall Del Norte is decked out for its final Christmas season with giant red signs: “Everything on Sale!” Customers keep coming up to Ms. Benavides to murmur: “I’m so sorry. So sorry.”
Laredo sits on the border with Mexico. It’s a poor city filled with immigrants who don’t speak English, let alone read it. A federal survey several years ago found half the adults in the county lack basic literacy skills.
Yet the bookstore has become a touchstone.