|Tina Newman and Anne Hamilton
On July 26, Tina Newman and Anne Hamilton opened Johns Creek Books & Gifts in Johns Creek, Ga., about 30 miles northeast of Atlanta. The 2,300-square-foot bookstore employs what Newman and Hamilton called a three-pronged approach, with the inventory divided into thirds between new books, used books and gifts. Johns Creek sells books for all ages in a variety of genres, including general fiction, science fiction and fantasy and mysteries.
"Any one prong would not succeed in this market," explained Newman. "We decided to have a third, a third and a third, and then see how it pans out."
At the moment, the store's new inventory is made up primarily of trade paperbacks, with a lot of general fiction, and especially what Newman characterized as book club books. About 30% of the initial order came from Baker & Taylor's new-store recommendations. The other 70%, Newman said, was what she and Hamilton figured would work in their market.
With the help of another staff member hired to be the store's "educator liaison," Newman and Hamilton have "aggressively" gone after partnerships with local schools and have made sure to carry as many assigned summer reading books as possible. For the store's children's inventory, they began with board books, especially the Indestructibles series, and they've also created a board book registry for new moms in the area.
For the store's non-book and gift inventory, Newman said they've worked to source the kinds of things that a customer won't "see all over the place." They sell baby gifts, candles, plaques made by a local artist and Georgia-themed pillows meant for students going off to college. They carry an assortment of jewelry from a local company, whose owner Newman met when their dogs were playing at the same dog park. Puzzles have also proved popular, along with journals and greeting cards--of the latter, Newman said that Shannon Martin and Avanti greeting cards are probably their two bestselling card lines.
Newman said that she and Hamilton have already been approached by several local and self-published authors, and while they don't have an official policy in place for them yet, they are considering doing events that would bring together four or five authors at a time. Other event plans include a variety of book clubs and traditional author appearances. They also hope to partner with Johns Creek Psychology for special talks on anxiety, as well as on financial literacy for high school students.
Most of the staff has ample experience in bookselling. Newman, Hamilton and their educator liaison were all colleagues at the same store for years, and one of their new hires spent nearly three years at Barnes & Noble. And they've hired a senior in high school who handles the store's website and social media, and can troubleshoot tech problems. All of that knowledge and experience, Newman said, has been "instrumental" in getting Johns Creek up and running.
Newman described herself as more of the face of the bookstore, out and about in the community, while Hamilton, for instance, ultimately chose the store's POS system and set up payroll. "We couldn't have done it without each other," Newman said. "We have very complementary skill sets."
Newman reported that customers have responded very well to the store, and the most common description they've heard about the space is that it is inviting. Added Newman: "We've had an incredibly warm welcome from everybody who's walked through the door." --Alex Mutter