SOUTH PORTLAND – The Borders store parking lot was filled Friday afternoon and signs on the windows read, “Going out of Business” and “Entire Store Up to 40% Off.”

Inside, the shelves were still well-stocked and aisles were packed. About 60 shoppers waited in a checkout line that snaked around the store. Papers taped to the computers used by customers to search for inventory read, “Due to the liquidation process we no longer have access to store inventory.”

Mark Whitney of Scarborough came to the store to use a $100 gift card, but was in too much of a rush to deal with the crowds. He said a staffer told him the checkout wait time was 40 minutes. “They shut off the computers. Add that to the 40 minutes in line and no thanks,” Whitney said.

Borders Group Inc., based in Ann Arbor, Mich., with 10,700 employees, filed for bankruptcy in February. Friday marked the beginning of its liquidation sales at 399 stores across the country.

Ron Grother, a frequent Borders customer, said he came to shop Friday after getting an email from the store announcing the sale.

The South Portland resident, who joked that “I paid their mortgage last year,” said he’s hopeful that another book store will come in.

“It doesn’t have to be Borders,” Grother said.

He and other local book enthusiasts may be in luck.

Books-A-Million Inc., the third-largest book retailer in the nation, has proposed buying 30 stores, including the South Portland and Bangor locations, from the bankrupt company, according to The Associated Press. This would add to the more than 200 stores that Books-A-Million currently operates in 23 states and Washington, D.C.

Borders spokeswoman Mary Davis said Friday that it’s too early to speculate on the deal because negotiations continue.

“We can’t comment on the list of stores. It hasn’t been finalized yet,” she said.

When Books-A-Million announced the proposal Thursday in a news release, it did not say which stores it offered to buy.

“Books-A-Million, Inc. today announced the company has submitted a bid in the Borders, Inc., bankruptcy proceedings to purchase, among other things, the inventory, fixtures, equipment and leasehold interests for 30 Borders locations,” the release said. “Under the proposed bid, Books-A-Million will assume the leases for these locations and continue to operate these stores.”

David Manning, service manager at the Borders in South Portland, declined to comment when asked if he knew details of the deal.

In addition to South Portland and Bangor, Borders also has a store in Brunswick, which was not on the acquisition list published by AP.

Grother left the store Friday having purchased a few magazines. He said much of the inventory was still listed at only 10 to 20 percent off.

“I’ll come back in a few days to see if stuff goes down in price,” he said.

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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