By LINDA G. RASTELLI
When Michael Bonney bought Red Bank News in May, it seemed the decades-old monument to print journalism, deemed “a Red Bank treasure” by one regular, would continue much the same as before.
Patrons could still lose themselves browsing the racks of newspapers and magazines that took up most of the shop’s floor space.
But today, what was once a crowded warren of newsprint and glossies is open space that mainly draws the eye to the checkered black and white floor (soon to be replaced by hardwood or linoleum, Bonney said).
The magazine racks are gone, as Bonney has drastically pruned his 500-title magazine inventory, which he’s planning to replace with more household items, including dairy products and toiletries.
“It’ll be more like Prown’s,” he explained, referring to the much lamented Broad Street five-and-dime that closed in 2003 and for many residents remains the symbol of a slower, more stable, less gentrified downtown.
Now it seems that the Red Bank News known to generations of customers is also about to begin slowly fading into the collective memory, as newspaper and magazine sales become more of a sideline to its business than its mainstay.
“I do feel bad about it,” Bonney told redbankgreen last week. “People are a little bit disappointed, and there’s been a few complaints.”
Like many other changes wrought by technology, the decline of print media attracts its mourners. But Bonney has found that standing against the tide enacts its toll — in this case, financial.
Bonney, an Asbury Park resident and avid newspaper reader, said he was returning more than 1,000 unsold copies of periodicals monthly. He’s also learned in his short time in the business that more people were browsers than buyers.
So as much as he liked carrying the variety of titles, he decided after a painfully slow August that he couldn’t continue to stock a product that was unprofitable. Lack of flexibility in working with his large distributor also contributed to his decision, he added.
“People just aren’t buying most magazines every month,” he said. “They use the Internet, or subscribe, so they don’t buy single copies much.”
Now, copies of garish gossip magazines and the obligatory Playboys sit at the front counter amid a few lonely looking copies of Discover and the Economist. “I’m just keeping the ones that always sell,” Bonney said.
He’s still selling newspapers, but not in as great a variety as before. Cigarettes, lottery tickets an snacks remain on sale.
What’s next? The store will slowly transition to more of a convenience store, Bonney said, while he tries out new items — household staples such as light bulbs and foods such as eggs and milk.
And how are the old-timers taking it? During all his stops and starts, “people have been very patient and understanding, I want you to say that,” Bonney stressed. “I’m learning as I go. These are growing pains.”