Ted and Valerie Przyborowski are snowbirds - winters in Florida, summers in their Clark home. When Ted decided to spend a Borders gift card given to him by a family member, he headed on over to in and picked up some Dickens, a few Austins, a Faulkner and a copy of Beowulf.
The day he chose to trade his gift card for a pile of books was the same day that the parent company of Borders announced that, not having found a white knight to rescue their distressed stores, they were finally throwing in the towel.
By September, or sooner if the merchandise sells off during the store liquidation, the Borders Express in Woodbridge Center will be no more.
"It's always sad when a book store closes," said Ted Przyborowski, but he also admitted neither he nor his wife were prone to spend much time in Borders. The Woodbridge Center outlet was the closest to them for cashing in the gift card.
If anything, they'd spend their time in the spacious and lavish Barnes & Noble in Clark where they live. That store has a coffee shop, lounge chairs, and lots of space and time for perusing book selections.
Crystal Smith of Colonia had the same notion. "I shop at Barnes & Noble. It's just more convenient to where I live."
Smith had "no idea" that Borders will soon be shuttered, but she said she wasn't surprised.
"It's probably inevitable [for bookstores to be closing], what with Amazon, the Internet where you get download free books, and Kindle" - Amazon's proprietary e-reader, Smith said.
Nothing seemed out of place in the Borders Express. People strolled in and out, thumbing through books, and the cash register wasn't silent. The store has moved around the mall, but it's had a presence in Woodbridge Center for more than a quarter of a century.
The other long time bookstore in the mall, Waldenbooks, was absorbed by Borders, then owned by KMart, in 1984. Waldenbooks was then renamed as 'Borders Express.' Since then, it had been the last bookstore of its kind inside Woodbridge Township.
Armed with her children and books she purchased for them, Kathi Pearsall, a Metuchen resident, said she often buys books for her kids, but prefers to borrow her own reading materials from the Metuchen library.
"I like to read a real book, to hold it in my hands," she said. "When you buy a lot of books, they start stacking up all over the place. That's why I like the library."
Even so, Pearsall was still distressed at the idea of Borders closing. "It's sad. People are downloading books from the Internet. They don't seem to spend much time in bookstores anymore."
The sole clerk at Borders Express knew about the chain closing, but the prospect of losing her job had no effect on her courteousness and helpfulness to patrons. As one shopper noted, "The store is spotless. But maybe that's because no one comes in here."
The Woodbridge store may start its liquidation sale as early as Friday or over the weekend, the clerk said. The sale will start with 10 percent off, she said, with the rate of the discount increasing as time marches on toward the store's closing.
"But between you and me, the sales going on right now are probably better than the liquidation prices," the clerk said. She pointed to a "buy four, get the fifth free" promotion now in effect, on a slew of books with already heavily discounted prices.
"You won't get that with the liquidation," she said.
Another patron, who knew about the parent company's closing, still came in to buy a book. An East Brunswick native, he remembered the big Borders in the Mid-State Mall. That store was huge and had a popular cafe attached to it, where people would sit for hours, drink lattes and browse through books.
That store closed in 2008.
"If all people do is drink coffee and read books but don't buy them, they're using the bookstore as a library," he said.
Another shopper agreed. "If they can close that Borders in East Brunswick because they couldn't sell enough books, the same thing can happen to Barnes and Noble," she said.