Dec. 31--FORT WORTH -- A mismatched mix of gloom and bargain hunting filled the air on Tuesday as shoppers wandered through the stacks on the last day of business at the downtown Barnes and Noble, a Sundance Square fixture since 1996.
"I am depressed it's going away," said Dana Hairgrove, 28, a Dallas schoolteacher who used to live in Fort Worth. "It's sad."
She bought a children's book for her class and a novel for herself, about a bookseller -- Mr. Pembra's 24-Hour Book Store. "I thought it would be fitting."
The store, a block-long edifice along Commerce Street with an in-house Starbucks coffee house and a movie theater around the corner, drew shoppers to whom the retailer had imparted happy memories.
"It's where I went for coffee after the show as a teen-ager. It was the most fun," said Georgetown resident Josh McConnell, 34, who grew up in Burleson and returned Tuesday to snap up books with a $50 gift card he got for Christmas. "It's a great day to use it with 50 percent off."
Not all books were so heavily discounted. Those left over would be shipped to other stores.
In September, Barnes & Noble announced that it would close the downtown store for economic reasons, and the University Park Village location in Fort Worth because the new landlord there, Glimcher Realty Trust in Ohio, wanted to raise the rent.
The Barnes & Noble at University Park Village also closed Tuesday at 6 p.m. with customers coming in to say good bye, said an employee, Nick Rainone. Glimcher has indicated it would subdivide the space for smaller retailers. The closures leave a store near Hulen Mall as the last Barnes & Noble in the city, with other Tarrant County stores in Arlington, Hurst and Southlake.
In downtown Fort Worth, former employees slipped in to hug and chat with past colleagues and bosses, creating little emotional snippets mostly unseen by busy, preoccupied shoppers.
"I've come to love this store," said Gene Moore, a moonlighting school librarian who worked for years at the Sundance store and has been offered a similar position at the Hulen store in southwest Fort Worth. "There's something so special about this store, so distinct. I can't imagine my life without Barnes & Noble."
Aside from being the largest single retailer in the business district, at nearly 25,000 square feet, the bookstore had a mammoth replica of Frederic Remington's The Bronco Buster sculpture popping through the second story.
"What are they going to do with the statue?" McConnell asked.
The sculpture, fashioned out of a Styrofoam-like material and painted to look bronzed, belongs to Sundance Square. The property company won't decide its fate until a new tenant is found, said Tracy Gilmour, Sundance's director of marketing.
Rumors had filtered down to the children's section that the downtown Barnes & Noble would become a franchised restaurant featuring a rich dairy-based dessert.
"Seriously, do they have to make it a Cheesecake Factory?" complained Caden Byas, 7, an outspoken second-grader from Saginaw. "I hate cheesecake."
Johnny Campbell, Sundance Square's president and CEO, said talks are underway with "a list" of prospective tenants, but he declined to specifically address the possibility of cherry cheesecakes being bolted down in what had been the classic literature department.
Barry Shlachter, 817-390-7718 Twitter: @bshlachter