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Walden Book Company, Inc.
Company typeSubsidiary
FoundedMarch 4, 1933; 91 years ago (1933-03-04) in Bridgeport, Connecticut
FounderLawrence Hoyt
Melvin Kafka
DefunctJuly 18, 2011; 12 years ago (2011-07-18)
FateLiquidation as a result of bankruptcy of the Borders Group
HeadquartersAnn Arbor, Michigan
Number of locations
Area served
United States
ProductsBooks, magazines, comic books, maps, calendars, gift cards
ParentBorders Group
Websitewaldenbooks.com at the Wayback Machine (archived September 28, 2002)

Waldenbooks was an American shopping mall-based bookstore chain operated by the Walden Book Company, Inc., and from 1995 was a subsidiary of Borders Group. The chain also ran a video game and software chain under the name Waldensoftware, as well as a children's educational toy chain under Walden Kids. In 2011, the chain was liquidated in bankruptcy.


On March 4, 1933, Lawrence Hoyt (1902–1982),[1][2] a former sales manager for Simon & Schuster,[3] and Melvin T. Kafka (1905–1992)[4][5] opened a rental library within leased space inside a Bridgeport, Connecticut, department store under the name Walden Book Company (named for Henry David Thoreau's Walden, a meditation on simple living in natural surroundings).[6] The pair believed that their business would help people cope with the effects of the Great Depression. Books were lent out for three cents per day to save customers the cost of purchasing the books while providing affordable entertainment.[4][7] By 1948, Hoyt and Kafka had opened 250 book rental locations.[4]

Waldenbooks logo c.1960s

Hoyt opened the first Walden bookstore in Pittsburgh in 1962.[2] Within 15 years, the company had grown to over 250 locations in leased locations within various department stores. With the increased availability of low-cost paperbacks after the Second World War, rental library services were eventually replaced with retail book selling.[8]


By the 1970s, the company had sales of just under $200 million.[2] In 1969, it was purchased by the Broadway Hale Stores,[9] a California-based department-stores holding company that was later renamed Carter Hawley Hale in 1974.[10] For the stand-alone bookstores, the company initially traded under the name Walden Books, written as two words. During the 1970s, the company gradually changed its trade name to Waldenbooks, written as a single word.[11]

In 1984, Waldenbooks acquired three stores that were located in upscale neighborhoods from the bankrupted Brentano's chain with the original intent of converting the stores to the Waldenbooks brand,[12] However, Waldenbooks discovered that when they continued to operate the newly acquired stores as Brentano's, the new stores were generating more sales than equivalent Waldenbooks, so Waldenbooks decided to continue and expand the Brentano's brand in select upscale neighborhoods.

In 1984, Waldenbooks itself was acquired by Kmart after Carter Hawley Hale needed to get cash to defend itself from a hostile takeover attempt.[13] At that time, Waldenbooks was the largest retail bookstore chain.[14] Under Kmart's ownership, Walden attempted to expand and diversify its business. In 1985, it opened a discount book outlet chain called Reader's Market by converting five existing stand-alone Waldenbooks stores.[15][16][17] A year later, Walden discontinued the discount bookstores after disappointing sales figures. Walden later tried this concept within selected Kmart stores.[18]

WaldenSoftware logo (c. 1997)
Waldenkids logo (c. 1987)

After terminating the discount book strategy, Walden began experimenting with larger stores by opening Waldenbooks & More stores that included merchandise beyond books,[18] WaldenSoftware computer software stores,[19] and WaldenKids educational toys stores.[19] In 1987, Waldenbooks acquired the U.S. stores of the Canadian bookstore chain Coles Book Stores Ltd.[20] and gradually converted the stores to Waldenbooks. By 1990, Waldenbooks began to convert Waldenbooks & More into even larger Waldenbooks & More Books stores with a greatly expanded book selection.[21]

In 1992, Walden opened nine book superstores under the Basset Book Shop name;[22][23] ultimately these stores were converted to Borders locations after the merger.[24][25]

Kmart expanded its bookstore holdings by acquiring Borders in 1992.[26] At that time, Kmart kept Borders and Waldenbooks separate, but converted Waldenbooks' Bassett stores to the Borders brand.

When Kmart decided to spin off its noncore subsidiaries in 1994, Kmart merged Waldenbooks, Brentano's, and Borders to form the Borders-Walden Group.[27] At that time, Waldenbooks had 1,216 stores in all 50 states.[28] In 1995, the renamed Borders Group was able to buy back its stock[29] and it was listed independently on the New York Stock Exchange.[30][31]

Beginning in 2004, many Waldenbooks locations were rebranded as Borders Express stores.[32] Borders Group, in an attempt to increase profits and lower the overall expense of their Waldenbooks brand, also announced that it was downsizing the Waldenbooks chain to respond to the current "competitive environment". In January 2010, 200 stores, almost two-thirds of the total, were closed.[33][34]

On July 18, 2011, Borders Group filed for liquidation to close all of its remaining Waldenbooks and other stores.[35] Liquidation commenced on July 22, 2011.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In season 4, episode 9 (Nov. 25, 1977 air date) of The Rockford Files titled "The Mayor's Committee from Deer Lick Falls", Jim Rockford is looking for someone in a mall and stands outside a Waldenbooks.
  • In season 6, episode 13 (air date January 26, 1995) of Seinfeld titled “The Scofflaw”, several scenes take place in a Waldenbooks, where Jake Jarmel has book signings and interactions with the other characters.
  • On July 16, 2018, streaming service Netflix released a teaser for the upcoming third season of its hit series Stranger Things. The ad was made in the style of a 1985 mall advertisement, and includes an image of a "newly opened" Waldenbooks store among its offerings. In reality, the crew of Stranger Things did a cosmetic restoration of a portion of the Gwinnett Place Mall in Duluth, Georgia, returning authentic signage and storefronts to the mall to represent many businesses that have since ceased to exist.[36][37][38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Milestones". TIME. Vol. 121, no. 1. New York City. January 3, 1983. p. 88. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved March 5, 2015. Alternate Link via EBSCO. Alternate Link via TIME.
  2. ^ a b c "Lawrence W. Hoyt, Book Chain's Chief". New York Times. December 20, 1982.
  3. ^ Miller, Laura J. (2009). "Chapter 5: Selling the Product". In Nord, David Paul; Rubin, Joan Shelley; Schudson, Michael (eds.). The Enduring Book: Print Culture (A History of the Book in America 5). Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press. p. 94. ISBN 9780807832851. OCLC 261174626. Retrieved March 5, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c "Walden Book Company Inc. -- Company History". 2012-04-12. Archived from the original on 2012-04-12. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  5. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths KAFKA, SYLVIA MARKLEY". query.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2021-04-03.
  6. ^ Eichelbaum, Fred (May 16, 1958). "On the Main Floor...: 'How To' Session Reveals There's Money in Books: $184 Per Square Foot Of Main Floor Space". Women's Wear Daily. Vol. 96, no. 97. p. 8. ProQuest 1523387101. Our Firm", he [Hoyt] says, "was founded the day in 1933 when all the banks in the country closed. It was an auspicious start. I walked in on the head of Filene's in Boston and made my pitch, namely to run a leased book department. 'By the way', he asked after listening to me, 'what is your company's name?' Well, my company didn't have a name yet. But being a lover of nature and especially of Thoreau, the naturalist, and his "Walden", I had little trouble naming my company right then and there. It was the Walden Book Co. and has retained the name ever since.
  7. ^ "Waldenbooks in Peoria to close this month » The Peoria Chronicle". 2019-02-14. Archived from the original on 2019-02-14. Retrieved 2019-07-03.
  8. ^ "Walden Book Company Ad". New York Times. October 14, 1953. p. 26. ProQuest 112598889. Walden Book Company, Booksellers to these United States
  9. ^ Miller, Laura J. (2008). Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226525921. OCLC 646784231.
  10. ^ "Broadway's Parent to Take New Name". Los Angeles Times. February 12, 1974. p. c9. ProQuest 157487572. Archived from the original on January 31, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2017. But when Broadway-Hale Stores Inc. directors decided it was time for a change they just looked around the table. The Los Angeles firm, parent of the Broadway Stores, Neiman-Marcus, Capwell's and other retail operations, will be known as Carter Hawley Hale Stores Inc., if the shareholders approve. THe name is taken from its principal executives: Edward W. Carter, board chairman; Philip M. Hawley, president; and Prentis C. Hale, chairman of the executive committee. Operating divisions will retain their present names. The company said "Broadway-Hale" was too often confused with the Broadway Stores reatiling unit.
  11. ^ "Waldenbooks Ad". Boston Globe. August 27, 1972. p. B_24. ProQuest 506139893. Archived from the original on January 31, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  12. ^ Cox, Meg (November 15, 1989). "Mass Marketers of Books Aim to Be Class Marketers: Comparing Best Sellers". Wall Street Journal. p. B1. ProQuest 135405363. The chief executive officer of Waldenbooks, Harry Hoffman, says he initially planned to convert the three Brentano's stores he bought in 1984 to Waldenbooks shops. But the childhood memory of his mother praising the extra service there gave him pause. So he revamped one old Brentano's store in St. Louis; when it reopened, annual sales exceeded $1 million, well above the sales for a new Waldenbooks.
  13. ^ Barmash, Isadore (July 24, 1984). "K Mart to Acquire Waldenbooks". New York Times.
  14. ^ Bekken, Jon (Winter 1997–1998). "Feeding the dinosaurs: Economic concentration in the retail book industry". Publishing Research Quarterly. Vol. 13, no. 4. pp. 3–26. ProQuest 89068423. In 1984 K-Mart purchased Waldenbooks, then the country's largest bookstore chain (since relegated to second place by the merger of B. Dalton and Barnes & Noble), from the Carter-Hawley-Hale department store chain. Founded in 1933, by the 1980s, Waldenbooks operated more stores-located in shopping malls and similar high-traffic locations - than any other bookstore chain, and accounted for 15% of all bookstore sales. In 1987, the chain operated 1,179 Waldenbooks outlets (including 50 U.S. Coles stores bought that year from the Canadian chain); seven Waldenbooks & More, eight Waldensoftware, 28 Waldenkids, and 18 Brentano's outlets; and serviced book departments in Kmart stores. (Waldenbooks converted most Brentano's outlets into Waldenbooks after buying the chain in 1984, but later began opening new Brentano's as an upscale mall store brand enabling it to operate two bookstores in selected malls.) In 1992, Kmart added Borders Books' small but rapidly growing superstore operator to its portfolio. Under Kmart ownership, Borders grew from 19 to 75 stores while Waldenbooks shrank from a peak of nearly 1,300 stores to 1,127 in early 1995.
  15. ^ "Discount Book Stores: Waldenbooks Launches Chain". Victoria Advocate. December 6, 1984. p. 16B.
  16. ^ "Waldenbooks Norwalk Store Is Discounter". Norwalk Hour. December 11, 1984. p. 21.
  17. ^ Yoshihara, Nancy (January 28, 1985). "K mart Breaks Away From Its Pattern of 1960s". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ a b Reilly, Patrick (March 10, 1986). "At Waldenbooks, More Gets Nod Over Discounting". Crain's New York Business. Vol. 2, no. 10. p. 1. ProQuest 219169188. Waldenbooks tried its own hand at discounting. Last year it closed five conventional, money-making Waldenbook stores in the New York area, and reopened them as Reader's Market stores, offering discounts of 10% to 35% on all books. But the stores had produced average annual sales of only $600,000, equal to an average Waldenbooks' outlet's sales, but far below the $750,000 level needed to make a discount outlet profitable. Instead of converting more individual Waldenbooks stores to discount outlets, as of June 1, Reader's Market outlets will be opened as stores within stores at six K mart outlets in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Reader's Markets will retain their name in the K marts, taking up about 1,500 square feet, half the size of a typical Waldenbooks store. If successful, Reader's Markets will be expanded to other K mart outlets. Waldenbooks is revamping its response to discounters by scaling back its own discount chain in favor of units in K mart stores. And it is turning to an ambitious super bookstore -- called Waldenbooks & More -- to propel growth by selling everything from computer software to stuffed animals. The first Waldenbooks & More opened in November on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, L.I. At 10,000 square feet, it's more than triple the space of an average Waldenbooks store, and stocks about 35,000 book titles, more than twice the number in average stores.
  19. ^ a b "Kmart Unit Will Market Computer Software, Toys: Waldenbooks Moves to Diversify". Los Angeles Times. April 5, 1987. p. D8. ProQuest 898798718. Archived from the original on January 31, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2017. Waldenbooks will be opening stores in its two newest fields shortly, both outside its traditional bailiwick: software and children's educational toys. Waldensoftware, which will sell about 7,500 different software titles for the personal computer market, will open its first store in June in Darien, Conn. Waldenkids, which will sell educational toys and games for children under 12 years old, will open in four locations in April (Los Angeles; Columbia, Mo.; Atlanta, and Pittsburgh), and two more in Connecticut in June.
  20. ^ "Business Brief: Southam Inc". Wall Street Journal (Eastern ed.). July 22, 1987. p. 1. ProQuest 398113971. Archived from the original on October 2, 2017. Retrieved July 7, 2017. Southam Inc., Toronto, said its Coles Book Stores Ltd. unit agreed to sell its 52 U.S. book stores and related assets to Waldenbooks Inc., a large Stamford, Conn.-based book retailer.
  21. ^ Cohen, Roger (September 30, 1990). "IDEAS & TRENDS; If the Written Word Is Really Dying, Who Is Patronizing The 'Superstores?'". New York Times. Waldenbooks, meanwhile, is embarking on a major investment program to convert its 23 Waldenbooks & More stores, which carry videos and other products in addition to books, into large stores called Waldenbooks & More Books, with about 50,000 titles.
  22. ^ Goerne, Carrie (July 6, 1992). "Now Book Browsers Can Munch Brownies as They Shop for Browning". Marketing News. Vol. 26, no. 14. p. 1. ProQuest 216389187. Waldenbooks, one of the largest mall-dwellers, has followed several other chains' lead and opened its first superstore last month in Stamford, Conn. The chain plans to open 50 more superstores, dubbed Bassett Bookshops, by the end of 1993. The store is not being marketed under the Waldenbooks name because consumers associate the name too strongly with the mall stores. Not to mention that the name Bassett Bookshop evokes more of that warm, fuzzy feeling the store is aiming for.
  23. ^ Berreby, David (November 8, 1992). "The Growing Battle of the Big Bookstores". New York Times.
  24. ^ Knauer, Orren F. (March 5, 1993). "Kmart Corporation announces borders 1992 results". PR Newswire. p. 1. ProQuest 450083177. Results included operations of the nine Basset Book stores which were transferred to Borders from Waldenbooks at the end of the year.
  25. ^ "Marketing Brief -- Borders Inc.: Chain Soon Will Manage All Of Kmart's Book Superstores". Wall Street Journal (Eastern ed.). December 9, 1992. ProQuest 398423549. Archived from the original on January 9, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2017. Kmart Corp., which agreed to acquire bookstore chain Borders Inc. in October, said Borders will run all of Kmart's extra-large book superstores. As of Feb. 1, Borders will manage its own 22 book superstores, which operate under the name Borders Book Shops, plus four Basset Book Shop superstores now run by Kmart's Waldenbooks division. Kmart, based in Troy, Mich., said that all Bassets will change their name to Borders, and in the future, all of the company's new book superstores will use the Borders name.
  26. ^ "Kmart to Purchase Borders Bookstores Chain". New York Times. October 3, 1992.
  27. ^ "Kmart to Sell Stakes in Unit". New York Times. January 5, 1994.
  28. ^ Knauer, Orren F. (February 28, 1994). "Kmart Corporation announces Borders-Walden Group 1993 results". PR Newswire. p. 1. ProQuest 450079808. Kmart Corporation today announced 1993 sales and operating results for the Borders-Walden Group, representing Kmart's retail book subsidiaries, Borders and Walden Book Company, which have been combined to form the new retail bookstore group. The Borders-Walden Group operates 44 Borders stores in 21 states and 1,216 Waldenbooks stores in 50 states.
  29. ^ "Kmart Sells Remaining 13% Stake In Borders Group". New York Times. August 17, 1995.
  30. ^ Borders Group Media Relations. Borders Group Inc. Media Relations FAQs. Retrieved December 5, 2004. Archived October 12, 2004, at the Wayback Machine
  31. ^ "Borders Shares Off to Good Start". New York Times. May 26, 1995.
  32. ^ Gomes, Andrew (May 20, 2004). "Waldenbooks' local shops may change name". Honolulu Advertiser.
  33. ^ "Slide Show: Who's Closing Stores In 2010?". Forbes. January 20, 2010.
  34. ^ "Waldenbooks to Become Smaller, More Profitable Chain in 2010 as Number of Stores Will Be Reduced by Approximately 200 in January: Borders Group Intensifies Ongoing Strategy to Right-Size Mall Operation; Today's Announced Mall Store Reduction Does Not Include Borders Superstores or Seasonal Mall Kiosk Business". PR Newswire (Press release). November 5, 2009.
  35. ^ Schorpp, Doug (July 18, 2011). "All Waldenbooks, Borders stores closing". Quad-City Times.
  36. ^ Coming Soon: The Starcourt Mall! Hawkins, Indiana (Stranger Things Season 3 Teaser | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aXyju7zFwyE
  37. ^ Gwinnett Place Mall Transformed for 'Stranger Things' Season 3 | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hWG5tnCj2g
  38. ^ Ho, Rodney (May 11, 2018). "Gwinnett Place Mall goes back to the future for 'Stranger Things'". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved July 16, 2018.

External links[edit]