David Goldberg, whose day job is sales and marketing director at David R. Godine, Publisher, reports on Boston's newest bookstore.
Papercuts J.P., opened on Small Business Saturday 2014 to great fanfare (and more than 2,000 likes on Facebook). In just over three months, the 500-square-foot shop has discovered its community and--in spite of record snow--piled up impressive sales while hosting authorless events, music and community conversations, as well as "untimely" readings by local authors William Martin and Celeste Ng.
Located just off bustling Centre Street in Boston's Jamaica Plain neighborhood, Papercuts has filled a void, connecting books and readers--many of whom, like the "super-supportive" duo of Gareth and Amanda Cook, work in publishing or are writers themselves.
"People have been enthusiastic that we're here," owner Kate Layte said. "It's blown my expectations completely."
Although she's quick to give credit to the New England Independent Booksellers Association, other shops and wholesalers, Layte noted "Local publishers have been amazing, even hand-delivering books," including Layte's top seller, Dirty Old Boston: Four Decades of a City in Transition by Jim Botticelli (Union Park Press).
In addition to more predicable favorites like Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon (Dey Street Books), Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay (Harper Perennial) and Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf), Layte highlights brisk sellers from Philip Pullman's and Megan Abbot's backlists along with a series of 12-page zines discovered by Layte's husband--How to Talk to Your Cat About Evolution and How to Talk to Your Cat About Gun Safety.
Good design matters to Layte, who previously worked in production at Little, Brown. The sole book currently displayed at the register is What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund (Vintage), which Layte offers less as an impulse buy than as an opportunity to talk aesthetics with her customers. "I love to point out [that he's the associate art director at Knopf] when someone buys a book he designed."
Like neighboring businesses, Layte locally sources as much as possible, filling the walls and shelves with hyper-local sidelines from artists she's discovered during neighborhood open studios.
The most important lesson from Layte's first 100 days seems to be that change is good--and that more is sometimes, but not always, better. Expanding her children's section, she's keen to present titles that aren't generally sold at neighborhood toy stores, opting for books that are more "under the radar." She commented: "To display books well is really important, and I've had to figure out how to do that here, using every inch of space and rethinking things as I go."
Running an intimate boutique like this is almost like offering up one's own personal bookself, and the warm welcome and early success is obviously gratifying. When asked how she handles receiving without any storage or back office, Layte doesn't hesitate to say, "Quickly."