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October 25, 2010

Independent bookstore in Salem to close

SALEM — The news was expected, but it still hurt.

Gilbert Pili, the owner of Cornerstone Books, sent an e-mail to customers and friends yesterday morning under the heading "Farewell, Salem."

Pili said he has not been able to find a buyer for the independent bookstore he opened five years ago and announced plans to close Nov. 1.

"As of today," he wrote, "no new ownership has been forthcoming; any interested parties should contact the store as soon as possible.

"For me, the time has come to say goodbye. ... It's been a wonderful ride."

In a recent interview, Pili acknowledged the challenges faced by independent bookstores and said he decided to sell his store for personal reasons. The Salem News was not able to reach him yesterday.

Over the past five years, Cornerstone Books developed a devoted following as host of the city's literary festival and numerous book signings, readings, club meetings and other events.

Best-selling author Brunonia Barry launched "The Lace Reader" at the store. Other prominent authors were regulars.

"It's very sad that we're losing Cornerstone Books because they are a wonderful community center," said Katherine Howe, a Marblehead novelist who did a book signing there for her best-seller "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane."

"Independent bookstores are incredibly important for building a community amongst readers, and it makes me doubly sad given that Salem is Nathaniel Hawthorne's hometown," Howe said.

The news also hit hard in the city's downtown retail community.

"I would be heartbroken to see them go," said Diane Manahan, the owner of Pamplemousse, a retail store just around the corner from Cornerstone. "It's ... something we need in Salem."

Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, said he still holds out hope that new owners will be found.

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