Francesc Castel Coll always dreamed that he would retire the day Stock Llibres, the bookstore he runs on Comtal Street, turned forty years old. By then, he would be 65 and could pass the business on to the partner who has been with him for 21 years. “But not everything goes as planned,” laments the bookseller, who confirms to La Vanguardia that the business will close its shutters on the 29th of December. June.

“There have been 35 years of very good times, in which clients have become friends. But the pandemic has done a lot of damage. We had to close for three months and, although we ended up closing the year without losses, there were no profits. That is something that not only we, but many businesses, are dragging along, and the increasing rental prices do not help. Although there is another problem: the social change that Barcelona has been undergoing in recent years.”

Castel regrets that the city center has become “a theme park designed exclusively for tourists. And they are not the audience of this and many other venues. Some classic shops, such as the La Montserratina pastry shop, have closed. On my street and surrounding areas, there are only four of us left who have been there for so long. The rest have been converted into souvenir establishments.”

The bookseller also attributes that “fewer and fewer people who are not tourists come to the center of Barcelona. I don’t judge them, since there are fewer and fewer facilities. Parking is very expensive, public transport is not up to par and, as I said, fewer and fewer stores are designed for them and the few that remain are drowning.”

The future? “Undefined. I won’t open another store. Stock Llibres will continue online and at fairs. Also in Sant Jordi, but instead of in front of the bookstore, it will be on Paseo de Gràcia.” Of course, it will continue alone. “Given the dizzying drop in sales, my colleague, who is actually my friend, prepared some competitions for rural agent. He had it in his mind to one day leave Barcelona and the situation made it possible for him to do so. Plus, he got the job from him. Now, I’m alone until it closes completely. “I’ve been like this for seven months.”

This ending weighs on Castel. “It is a very big disappointment. And one of the things that is going to hurt me the most is that I am convinced that a new bookstore will not open in my place, or any other more local business. Business is business, but, over time, life teaches that that is not everything,” he concludes.