On November 21, children's author Laura Scott Schaefer opened Scattered Books, an approximately 1,000-square-foot general bookstore in Chappaqua, N.Y. Though Schaefer has sold her own books before and participated in many bookstore events as an author, she'd had no previous experience in retail bookselling. For a plethora of reasons, including the plateauing of once-explosive e-book sales and the lack of a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Chappaqua, Schaefer felt like the time was right to open a store.
"I've always been very entrepreneurial, and I've always been a big book person," explained Schaefer, whose books include The Crumbles Chronicles and Pugbug and the Ticklish Garden. (She's also a former lawyer.) "It seemed like people are coming back to physical books and away from reading on devices," she added. "I had kind of a hunch that maybe it's time to take a chance and give it a shot."
Schaefer found what she calls an ideal location in Chappaqua last fall, and was able to open in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday rush. The bookshop's inventory is split roughly in half between kids books, ranging from picture books to YA, and adult titles. The inventory is around 95% new, with a limited selection of used books available for $1. The kid's section features a train table where kids can play, and adult shoppers can bring coffee in from outside and relax in store. As for sidelines, Schaefer carries a strong selection of toys and gifts. Schaefer reported that since opening, the size of her inventory has increased by about four-fold.
|Owner Laura Schaefer helps local resident Bill Clinton.
"We wanted to fill the need for a bookstore, because [Chappaqua] is a very educated, literate area, but we also wanted to be a place for ideas and for creativity," recalled Schaefer. Beloved indie bookstore Second Story and a beloved independent toy store both closed in Chappaqua in the past several years, and in many ways Scattered Books is addressing the needs left by their absence. After Schaefer decided to open a bookstore but before she found the right storefront, she posted on a Chappaqua Moms Facebook group and asked what people thought of a new bookstore in town.
"I got 500 comments back in two days," said Schaefer. "There was definitely a need."
Since the opening in, Schaefer and her staff have been building up the inventory based on community feedback and running an increasing number of author and group events. There are book clubs for both children and adults, story time sessions (some featuring a bunny), writing workshops and children's birthday parties. Schaefer has hosted several non-book related events with local groups, including a Girl Scouts "take over" of the store on February 5, during which a local troop ran the store for two hours, and a reception with the Northern Westchester Artists Guild on December 10.
|Lee Child and Andy Martin book signing
Scattered Books has also hosted a few high-profile author events, including a signing with authors Lee Child (Make Me), Suzanne Chazin (Land of Careful Shadows) and Andy Martin (Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of Me). And though they haven't been involved in any official events, the Bill and Hillary Clinton are residents of Chappaqua and have stopped by on multiple occasions.
Schaefer hopes to continue to experiment with additions to the store. She said she doesn't want something as extensive as a full-service cafe, as there is a great one down the street, but would like a small "book barista" area for coffee and light refreshments, possibly available free of charge. Longer term, Schaefer would love to have a dedicated events space, but that would involve major reconfiguring of the store.
So far, Schaefer said, she's been thrilled by the enthusiasm with which the Chappaqua community has embraced her store. "I think the best surprise has been how much people want the store here," she said. "People go out of their way to order a book from me instead of Amazon. It's been very nice. The community participation has blown me away." --Alex Mutter