Store Flooding; Bookselling in Alexandria
Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books, Montpelier, Vt., wrote yesterday about water damage that occurred two days ago in the store:
We had torrential downpours for the 100th-something day in a row. During yesterday afternoon's rain, Montpelier's infrastructure could take no more, and rain water coming down drainage pipes on our roof had nowhere to go. On the second floor of our building the pipes burst via a toilet, sending cascades of water down into our store. Staff and customers acted quickly and managed to save a good number of books from the water. There are a lot of wet books, too; the actual damage has not been assessed. After a long night of cleaning up the water and drying off the least damaged books, we're planning on spending Friday [this morning] getting the store back in order. Customers have already called to see if they can help. They'll be in at 9 a.m.! Our next-door neighbor, a clothing boutique, was hit too and their ceiling fell in.
For more, read the Barre Montpelier Times Argus's account.
Diane Wilson and Ken Mahnken, owners of Already Read Used Books, Alexandria, Va., respond to a story we mentioned in yesterday's issue:
We read the article in the Arlington Connection, and we noticed immediately that the author interviewed only a very small sample of bookstores in the Alexandria/Arlington area. He failed to include our store and at least three other used bookstores, plus the other independents in the Alexandria area.
We were bothered that the article made it seem that the bookstores in the Alexandria/Arlington areas are only scraping by or that the used bookstores have a limited source of books. In our opinion, the author used too small of a sample to get a good picture of the book business in the area. Blaming the Internet and the big box bookstores for the decrease in sales did not give a true picture of what is happening in the book business.
The author failed to mention the fact that Alexandria/Arlington area has some of the highest retail rents in the Washington area, and that hurts the bottom line. The economic downturn, high gas prices and big mortgages have also impacted on what customers spend.
Also, getting a steady stream of books is actually less of a problem than we thought it would be. Every day we receive calls about taking books, and we could probably fill our whole store with just boxes of books if we would pay cash rather than give store credit, not limit the type of books we take or the number of boxes per day. Plus, to increase the stream of books, we scout books for relaxation, and our scouting helps to fill in the subjects that do not come in as often as demand requires.
Our store is celebrating our second anniversary, and we are holding our own and establishing our bookstore as a place to stop for books. We have seen an increase in sales despite "the Internet" and the economic downturn. We do Internet sales to supplement our income and to replace what sales we do lose to folks who shop on the Internet for books. We have our challenges, but we would rather focus on serving our customers and having a nice selection of used books for them to peruse.