"I really want to create a forward-thinking, community-centric bookstore," said Ellen Trachtenberg, who has worked in the book industry in various capacities, including as a bookseller, for some 26 years. This October, she'll fulfill a decades-long dream by opening her own independent bookstore in Narberth, Pa., called Narberth Bookshop. "I've wanted to open a store personally because I think I have a good sense of the way an indie can succeed."
Narberth Bookshop will be an 1,100-square-foot, general-interest bookstore located at 221 Haverford Avenue. Though Trachtenberg has considered stocking used books, the inventory will be all new for the immediate future, with a focus on adult fiction and nonfiction. The store will carry a selection of frontlist titles--not an encyclopedic inventory but books that either Trachtenberg or one of her staff members can personally recommend.
"If people see the store as more literary and very selective, then I will have accomplished what I'm trying to do," said Trachtenberg. "I want to have a really good, wide range of titles, but not necessarily have every classic."
She also plans to feature books that are not commonly read as e-books, including cookbooks, gardening, art and design, and photography. On the store's front table, Trachtenberg plans to create quickly rotating displays reflecting new releases, current events, the current season and more. She hopes that more often than not, when a customer walks into the store, he or she will find a new front display. And though the store will have a "gorgeous but tiny" selection of children's books, they won't be a major focus of Narberth Bookshop, in part because there are already two great children's bookstores nearby. "It's not my intention to step on their business," said Trachtenberg. "I want to be working with my sister bookstores, not against."
At opening, Narberth Bookshop will also stock around 15-20 magazine titles along with a selection of greeting cards. As for other non-book products, Trachtenberg plans to have two broad categories: gift items that promote sustainability and help people reduce waste in their lives, and gifts for readers, which could even include covers for e-readers. Said Trachtenberg: "I'm not at war with e-books. I'm trying to support people reading in whatever format they choose."
|The future site of Narberth Bookshop
When Trachtenberg first announced on social media that she'll be opening a store in Narberth, the response was great, with thousands of "likes" and hundreds of comments within just 24 hours. One of the most common questions, Trachtenberg recalled, was whether the store would serve coffee. It's something that she's looking into, but the store's space is limited and there are already three places to buy coffee on the same block. "I don't want to step on that business, either," she commented. "I think I'd rather partner with them."
She added that she's more interested in the possibility of selling some pre-packaged food and beverage items, but plans to work on that after the store opens in the fall.
During her time in the book industry, Trachtenberg worked as a bookseller at several places. But it was her time at Three Lives & Company in New York City that inspired her the most.
"I consider Three Lives to be my ideal and where my ideas about bookselling were formed," said Trachtenberg. At Three Lives, she continued, "handselling seemed like an art," and it was clear to her that the things Three Lives did really well could never be replicated by an algorithm.
In fact, Trachtenberg has wanted to open a bookstore of her own since leaving Three Lives & Company, but until now the timing never felt quite right. She left New York at a time when Barnes & Noble and Borders were expanding aggressively, and decided to defer. Not too long afterward, Amazon came on the scene, and that, too, didn't seem like the right time.
Trachtenberg said that now feels like the right moment. "I hear from friends and family how much they missed the atmosphere a good indie bookstore provides, the sensory experience you can have at the best indie bookstores," she said. And on a personal level, she didn't want to defer the choice any longer. "It seemed like, do it now or don't do it."
Narberth Bookshop will have a soft opening sometime in mid- to late October, with a grand opening party set for the first Saturday of November. Her tentative plan for the party is an all-day open house with snacks, giveaways and a rotating list of authors doing signings and readings. Until then, Trachtenberg will be busy hiring two to three staff members, finalizing her opening day inventory, planning the store's events program, and completing renovations for the shop, which used to be a pool supply store.
"I'm trying to be extremely intentional," Trachtenberg said. "Opening in Narberth is part of that intention. The community has been vocally wanting a bookstore for quite some time. The hope is to earn their loyalty by becoming a real center of the neighborhood." --Alex Mutter