Today it was announced that a large new bookstore is opening at The Terminal in the Strip. We have some Thoughts.

TL;DR, White Whale got taken advantage of, and this is a cautionary tale. Buckle up! (Same text on images as on this thread)

1/15 A still from YOU GOT MAIL where Kathleen and her employees s
Until recently, White Whale thought WE were expanding into The Terminal. McCaffery, the developer leasing the historic space, approached us last summer. At the time, we laughed—it was a pandemic and we were just trying to keep our business afloat!—but they were persistent. 2/15
When McCaffery came back in October and pressed harder, we were a bit more willing to entertain the idea of a second location at The Terminal. Thanks to our community’s support, it had actually turned out to be a pretty good year for White Whale! 3/15
The space is beautiful, with built-in foot traffic and McCaffery’s own “robust marketing.” It felt like true possibility in an insanely stressful year. As we considered... 4/15
... the leasing manager noted McCaffery's CEO was prioritizing a bookstore in The Terminal—just a few neighborhoods away from us. He mentioned that they’d been talking to “an out-of-state chain” but that they really wanted a local business like ours. The pressure was clear. 5/15
It was mid-November and the biggest few weeks of the retail year were upon us (and Jill was nine months pregnant), but we moved quickly to secure our spot at The Terminal. 6/15
We settled on lease terms and, after explicitly confirming that they were not negotiating with another bookstore, we signed a Letter of Intent—which we were told meant that BOTH parties were moving forward in good faith. We sent in finance and sales histories. 7/15
And then, after months of rapid-fire back and forth…radio silence. 8/15
We followed up after a month. McCaffery’s CFO was on vacation but would review our paperwork. They’d said they wanted WW's Terminal location open by June, so (between caring for an infant and running our store), we worked on getting our ducks in a row to make that feasible. 9/15
After another three weeks, we checked in again. Two weeks after that, finally, news: there was no space for White Whale. McCaffery was moving forward with another bookstore at The Terminal. 10/15
When we spoke in person McCaffery’s leasing manager told us that, actually, the other store had had a draft of a lease at The Terminal all along. They had just “come back to the table” to finish up in Feb. It certainly appears as if White Whale was merely a bargaining tool. 11/15
It is not our intention to go after another bookstore. Pittsburgh is a great literary city full of prolific and eclectic readers! But McCaffery’s assertion that they are focused on community is purely lip-service. 12/15
McCaffery notes on its website that it “fulfills its mission aggressively with a spirit of openness, collegiality, honesty and always to the highest of professional standards.” The only word that rings true in our experience is aggressive. 13/15
They courted a small mom-and-pop shop, asked us to scramble during a pandemic year in which we’d already pivoted over and over, and instead put a national indie chain just down the hill from us. This is Big Business doing what it always does: trying to crush the little guy. 14/15
White Whale is not done, not by a long shot. We have kids to support, an actual community to uplift, and we have Plans. So keep fighting, keep reading, and please keep Shopping Small. We love you, Pittsburgh. 15/15

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1 Jun 20
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