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New York Times a changin'


Some souls have to wait until Sunday to get their fix. Then they line up in the late afternoon, gripping their $7.50. In Missoula, you have to go out of your way for a copy of the Sunday New York Times. The papers come but once a week, on a bus from Seattle, and have ended up for 20 steady years at Garden City News, where dozens of locals turn up to claim their copies.

Wayne Burnham, who's run the downtown store since 1979, has gone to the Greyhound station every Sunday to pick up the bundles-50 or so in winter, maybe 100 on languid summer Sundays perfect for perusing. He pays by the pound for their transport, and since the bus company doubled its rates this year he's had to bump the retail price up from the longstanding charge, which he figures cost him about 15 customers a week. The going rate in Seattle might be, but since there's no other way to track down a Times in this Western outpost-and since the Times' website now charges for much of its content-there aren't many complaints.

For years he carried the daily Times, too, but customers fell off steeply when changing bus schedules rendered its delivery a day late. Some 10 years ago, Burnham experimented with having papers flown in by air, but that experiment proved inconsistent.

"People laugh at the bus," he says, "but it's been far more reliable." His customers are reliable, too: Between 25 and 40 people sign up for reserved copies and have shown up like clockwork for years.

This month, though, Garden City News is winding down toward Jan. 31, when Burnham will close its doors to pursue personal interests and a more lucrative business for the space.

And while readers of all varieties may mourn the loss of downtown's local newsstand, Burnham says he'll continue to accommodate his Times readers by picking papers up every Sunday and making them available at other locally owned stores-maybe three locations, he says, though the details aren't settled. That news, it seems, is not yet fit to print.


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