ARCHIVED  May 1, 1997

Owner writes last chapter for Joe Pages Bookstore

CHEYENNE – After three years of helping revitalize Cheyenne’s downtown, Joe Pages Bookstore and Coffee House has closed its doors for good.

Owner Rod Miller said the cost of competing against a national chain has taken its toll, prompting him to relinquish his dream of operating an independent book store where friends could gather over a cup of coffee and discuss books and ideas of the time.

“The numbers weren’t there,” Miller said as he prepared to close the store at the end of April. “The numbers made it not a very difficult decision.”

His revenues were down 15 percent last year, primarily because of competition from a big new Barnes & Noble on Dell Range as well as a refurbished and expanded City News just around the corner.

“I could have put more money into it, but I just didn’t see the return,” he added. “I knew going in that the retail book business was not something you wanted to do if you wanted to clean up. The chains are making it very, very hard to be an independent bookseller.”

Instead, the former gubernatorial aide and runner-up in last year’s mayoral race will focus on his career as a consultant specializing in natural-resource conflict resolution and government relations, something he has pursued as a sidelight since leaving Gov. Mike Sullivan’s office in 1994 to open Joe Pages (The “Joe” was for coffee, the “Pages” was for books).

Miller and his wife, Linda, knew they were bucking the odds, but they saw downtown Cheyenne as hungry for a book store and gathering place. (Joe Pages followed the Java Joint as a coffee house by a few months, and while City News sold books, it was then much smaller and primarily a newsstand). Joe Pages was an instant success, not only as a bookstore but as a gathering place for business people during the day and teen-agers at night.

Introducing poetry readings and live music on weekend nights in Joe Pages’ basement, Miller was credited with helping revitalize downtown Cheyenne, especially in the evenings, and he still sees a potentially bright future for downtown Cheyenne, despite challenges, because space is affordable and it supports a neat mix of specialty shops.

“But it’s always going to be a struggle to draw people downtown, until people stop shopping in their cars,” he said. “A couple of things have to happen before the downtown will thrive – there has to be capital investment, and people are going to have to learn to walk rather than drive.”

Miller hoped to sell his inventory and fixtures to a single buyer but wasn’t holding out much hope of selling the business to somebody who would continue operating it.

“When I won the primary, I discretely listed the store, knowing that if I were elected mayor, there would be no way I could keep operating it. There was no interest,” he said, adding that friends and customers “all say they like it, but they don’t like it that much.”

CHEYENNE – After three years of helping revitalize Cheyenne’s downtown, Joe Pages Bookstore and Coffee House has closed its doors for good.

Owner Rod Miller said the cost of competing against a national chain has taken its toll, prompting him to relinquish his dream of operating an independent book store where friends could gather over a cup of coffee and discuss books and ideas of the time.

“The numbers weren’t there,” Miller said as he prepared to close the store at the end of April. “The numbers made it not a very difficult decision.”

His revenues were down 15 percent last year,…

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