The Book Co. quietly closed in December. (Photo: Staff)

Almost every month for years, area resident Justin McArthur has gone to East Ridge's family-owned bookstore.

He was busy over the recent holiday season and hadn't made his trip to The Book Co. When he went by there this week, he saw a disappointing sign. 

"The Book Co. will be permanently closing on Dec. 31 at 5 p.m.," the note read. "Thank you for your 40 years of business."

The store's phone line is still on. Nooga.com left a message there but didn't get a response. The business' Facebook page says "permanently closed." Yelpers have also reported the business closed. 

East Ridge's The Book Co. has closed after decades in business. (Photo: Contributed)

McArthur was heartbroken when he saw the news of the closure.

The Book Co., which used to be located at the 23rd Street flea market and later found its home at 3205 Ringgold Road, helped cultivate his love of reading, he said. 

He had been visiting the store since he was 5 or 6 years old, when the store was set up at the flea market, where his mother also sold items, he said. 

According to Nooga.com archives, the family matriarch, Tootsie Harless—who used to drive a large truck around the Southeast to get books to sell in the store—and her daughters operated the store, along with longtime employee Dan Frix. There was also a cat named Friend that used to live there. 

"[The owner's] obsession and love for books really nurtured my love for books," McArthur said. "I'm an avid reader. I read constantly. If it wasn't for her, I don't know if I would have read 'Harry Potter.'"

The store had books with topics ranging from children and Christian categories to self-help and women's rights; there were comics, collectibles, vinyl, DVDs, large print, hardbacks and paperbacks. 

And its customer service made it stand out, McArthur said. 

"If you were looking for something, [the owner] either had it or would get it for you," he said. 

The bookstore was known for inexpensive prices and for finding whatever a customer needed. 

McArthur said he is grateful for the services the store provided.

"I just want to thank them," he said. "They are going to be sorely missed."