When Tamba Trevarrow decided it was time to follow her dream of opening
a bookstore after stints doing social work and car advertising, she
took an exceptionally intense approach. Instead of opening near home in
Michigan, she searched up and down the East Coast looking for cities
and towns without a bookstore and with appealing demographics. She went
to Paz & Associates's booksellers school, where she learned the
"straight stuff" and made friends who have helped "every step of the
way." She talked to independents (some were discouraging but others let
her "hang out" and learn from them). And she worked at a local Borders
for a year to get hands-on experience and study the company's
"marketing and merchandising policies."
The two-year process came to a happy conclusion this past July 11, when
Trevarrow opened Salty Dog Books & Music in St. Michaels, Md., a
scenic town of 1,200 on the eastern shore of Maryland that swells in the warmer months with
tourists and summer people. At various times, a few stores in town
had stocked books in a corner, but no bookstore had ever operated in
St. Michaels. Some had told her the store would appeal mostly to
tourists, but so far 80% of her customers are locals. "We've been very
well received," Trevarrow said.
In 1,500 square feet on two floors in a historic home, Trevarrow stocks
about 5,000 titles. She aims for an "eclectic selection" and emphasizes
smaller presses. Regional and children's titles are popular. Among hot
adult titles: On Bullshit
by Harry G. Frankfurt (Princeton University Press, $9.95, 0691122946), "a big bestseller. We can't keep it on the shelf"; The World Is Flat
by Thomas L. Friedman (FSG, $27.50, 0374292884); Being Dead Is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral
by Gayden Metcalfe and Charlotte Hays (Miramax, $19.95, 1401359345); Eats, Shoots and Leaves
by Lynne Truss (Gotham, $19.95, 1592400876); and Guns, Germs, and Steel
by Jared Diamond (Norton, $16.95, 0393317552).
One major surprise for Trevarrow has been that the 600 music titles,
ranging from rap to classical, have found an audience. "I didn't think
music would be a big thing," she said. "But the only place nearby that
sells music is Wal-Mart, and they're censored." Music isn't
particularly profitable, she riffed, but "it brings people in."
Putumayo CDs do particularly well, and the store sells six or seven
copies of American Blues
a week. In the store, Trevarrow plays music all the time, which helps keep the cash register singing.
Salty Dog also carries games, calendars, gift wrap and maps and has a coffee and pastry bar.
Trevarrow wants to wait
until all is shipshape at Salty Dog before beginning author events. But
they will be a focus of the store. She
will have "salty dog" watermen come to tell tales and will also offer
traditional author events and children's story telling hours. She'll
include the many self-published authors whose subjects are St.
Michaels and the Chesapeake Bay. Other customer draws include a senior
every Wednesday and a 20% discount for residents the second Thursday of
Salty Dog has a staff of seven part timers and is open seven days a
week and until 9 or 10 every night but Sunday. The store has done some
advertising, including in a captain's guide for yachters sailing up and
down the coast. The store's salty dog logo appears on T-shirts and
Trevarrow thanks so many people and groups for helping the store become
a reality, including Donna Paz; Barbara Mead, a fellow booksellers
school student who ultimately decided not to open a store but bought
Paz & Associates's Reading Group Choices
August 4); several indies in Michigan; her son and daughter; her
friends and family; and professionals like her accountant, lawyer and
The year of working in Borders's Birmingham, Mich., store also helped
tremendously, Trevarrow said. "The big guys know what they're doing,
and I wanted to learn how they position books, about colors, about
traffic flow in the store, their selling techniques," she commented. "I
use their handselling technique of taking a customer to a section,
taking the book off the shelf and handing it to them. And I'm
constantly revolving books, moving them up front, sending them back. I
want to keep things fresh."
Trevarrow moved to St. Michaels a year ago this month, partly to find
the right space. "Stores don't open up often here," she said. "I had to
be on top of it." Once she found her space, there was a lot of work to
be done, particularly having fixtures custom made since the building
has a sloping ceiling and "crazy" floors. "It's quite an investment,"
she sighed. "But it looks wonderful."
Salty Dog Book & Music is located at 402 Talbot St., St. Michaels, Md. 21663; 410-745-2974; www.saltydogbooksandmusic.com