Lynn Rosen updates us on the bookstore she is opening in suburban Philadelphia. Part 1 is available here.
My thanks to those of you who wrote to me after my first Booklynn post about my plans to open a new bookstore in Elkins Park. It was great to hear from you all! I already feel very warmly welcomed into the bookselling community.
It's been a month since my first "Booklynn" post, and I wish I had more to tell you. There have been small steps. For example, we are now, officially and according to the state of Pennsylvania, Open Book Philly LLC. We have postponed our opening date just a bit, to early November, to give us a little more time to raise the money for our opening inventory. We are still working on our crowdsourcing campaign. It seems one has to have a somewhat sophisticated video, not just me sitting in front of a static camera talking and being my charming self. (Btw, we've debated between Kickstarter and Indiegogo and we have selected Kickstarter, but I'd be interested to hear thoughts from readers.)
Because the space we are opening is so small, I underestimated what would be involved in opening the store. It may be a small space, but this is a big job, a big commitment, and there's a lot to do: insurance, buy stock, signage, gift wrap, an opening event, promotion--and lots more I'm sure I've forgotten! (Please tell me what it is!) Evan (my husband and partner in this endeavor) had gently suggested this was a bigger deal than I realized. Oh, how I hate to say this: you were right, honey! So we keep moving forward, learning much as we go along. I'm overwhelmed and nervous, frightened even, but I just keep repeating my new mantra to myself: one step at a time.
We had a bit of a setback too, albeit a small one. We bought some great bookshelves on Craigslist, rented a truck and brought them to the store. I was so excited about what we had found at such a good price. But there wasn't room for one of the units because Cynthia, our proprietress, had an art exhibit up that she would be taking down in a few days. As it turns out, there's a vacant shop next door, and I asked the landlord if we could keep our bookcase there for a short while. But when I went to pick it up, it was gone. Turns out he rented the space, hired some cleaning people, and told them to trash whatever they found in the store. So our bookcase was put in the dumpster! I'm sad. But back to Craigslist....
As I mentioned, we postponed opening day. We had debated having a soft opening, and we decided against that. We were concerned people might come in once, see that we didn't have much stock, and never come back. But now I'm starting to worry that even our "hard" opening might have the same effect. Because we are going to be small, really small.
Even though we will have limited space and a much more modest collection of books than most other indie bookstores, I think what we will have will be special. We will really know the books we sell--we can really get behind them, talk about most of them, because we have read them, or they have been reviewed by sources we trust, be those sources book reviewers or friends and neighbors. We won't carry many bestsellers, for we can't hope to compete against the discounting at Amazon or Costco, but we plan to bring books to readers' attention that they wouldn't have found without us. That's what I do now for the people who take my "Hot Off the Press" class, and that's what I plan to do for my customers.
I almost want to be a sort of reading consultant. I think of the scenario when you go into a stationery store to order invitations. They sit with you at a table, they bring out books of samples, and you talk about what you like and don't like, then you place an order. That's what I want to do with my customers: sit down at my table and talk to them, learn about what they like and don't like to read, and then come up with suggestions that are tailored to their interests. And if it isn't something I can pull off the shelf at that moment, I'll special order it and deliver it.
This week I have started to think that what Evan and I are opening is not so much a bookstore as something slightly different and hopefully, slightly new. It's a bookselling shop, but it's not quite a bookstore. I'll be a personal shopper for books, perhaps. We'll see what happens as this evolution continues. One step at a time.