While my panic on retail has been limited to one store closing on my block (Soaps and Scents), you can certainly see results from the real estate bubble bursting around town. And I suspect that some far-out suburban areas, where there was more strip-center development and speculative building, will fare even worse.
In my mom's neighborhood in Brookline (akin to a very, very, very busy Downer Avenue), we were counting the casualties, from a home store I was quite loyal to (Bowl and Board) to several chains including Ritz Camera, Foot Locker, Qdoba, and The Children's Place. The highest profile closing was the neighborhood B&N, with nearby Brookline Booksmith hoping to pick up the slack. About five people sent me this article (either cut out of an actual newspaper or by linking) on Brookline book changes.
On my recent trip to Boston, I did some browsing (and buying) at the various bookstores in the area, including outlets at both Borders and Barnes and Noble (actually three chains as I went to at least one store in the college division, which was until recently, a separate entity).
The five indies I visited were Harvard Book Store, Brookline Booksmith, Porter Square, Symposium, and Trident. The latter two are new to my visit list. Symposium is an academic bargain book store in Kenmore Square, while Trident in Back Bay has been around for 25 years. They love the Dover spinner racks, and while three seemed like too many for me, you might find at least one with the kids titles in our future. I bought pirate tattoos and Jeremy Fisher stickers.
At Harvard Book Store, I got to chat with several of the folk there and hear their picks. Megan loves Generosity, the new Richard Powers (I'll have a post on this when it comes out) while Carole touted Strength in What Remains, by Tracy Kidder. It has much of the power of his previous Mountains Beyond Mountains, which went on to be a huge bookseller and critical fave.
While there, I bought a copy of The Most Beautiful Book in the World, a book they are recommending like crazy at Next Chapter. It's a Europa book, so it's mighty purty. I can't wait (stack is large, may wait a while). It's on the featured on Select Seventy.
At the two other stores, I did some card shopping, partly to buy cards and partly to look for interesting lines. I got at least one good idea, but another needs a local supplier. Someone in the Boston area does beautiful local postcards, on good quality paper. They make a custom card of the bookstore carrying the line for each store. Nice idea!
Aside from that, I visited family, the bargain book show, and tried out a selection of cupcakes from Sweet. Here's their menu.