For the first time since July of 1979, 1081 Route 25A is up for lease. The windows are covered in brown paper. The door is locked. The store once filled with school supplies, chemistry textbooks and course readers is vacant. The small store known as Stony Books will no longer see crowds of students waiting on line to buy or return their course materials.
Owner Robert Breun unlocks the door. Inside, the square room once of full shelves is virtually empty, with the exception of two chairs by the counter. He pulls up a chair and sits.
Over the years, the store has become a staple amongst Stony Brook students looking for an alternative to the campus bookstore.
“I had two heart attacks this summer,” he says leaning back in the chair. “It has had a negative effect on my health.”
Breun’s health issues, combined with a slowing business environment and his lease coming to an end, created what he calls a “perfect storm,” for his decision to close shop. And while he would have loved to leave the business to his nephews, the uncertain business environment made him decide otherwise.
Breun, a Stony Brook University alumni and old manager of the university’s campus bookstore, decided to open the store after seeing a demand for used books. Breun says that when he was an undergraduate, the only books you could buy were new books.
According to Breun, his success stems from the fact that he has continuously tried to offer the lowest priced books he can find.
“We do search the four corners of the earth for them,” Breun says.
While Breun says he has enjoyed coming to work over the years, the last few have been different.
“It’s been hell the past two years,” Breun says.
From trying to compete with the internet and dealing with the Faculty Student Association at Stony Brook, whom he says makes it difficult for him to work with professors interested in having their course materials available at the store, it’s just time to say good bye.
But the real stress factor has been the book publishing companies themselves.
“The publishers are the ones my rage is against,” Breun says. “Every term they will raise the price.”
In a 2008 study by the New York State Comptroller Office, between 1988 and 2004, increases in textbook price averaged at about six percent—double the rate of average overall inflation.
According to his nephew, Paul, the life cycle of a typical textbook is only 12-18 months.
Breun says he has had a “very positive view” of faculty and students over the years. But for more than 30 years, he has not had a New Year’s day off and has worked seven days a week, so retirement is looking nice. He isn’t quite sure what his plans are, but says he is planning on spending time in Florida where he has a home.
“We’ll see,” Breun says. “Probably after three days I’ll be bored.”