Sidelines Snapshot: Magnets, Puzzles, Inkwells & Cards


At the start of the last holiday season, co-owner Danielle Foster and her staff at Bookworks in Albuquerque, N.Mex., realized there was a "shortage of puzzles in town." Toward the end of 2017, they brought in more puzzles--from children's puzzles through 5,000-piece puzzles--and they've been moving incredibly well. Bookworks has had success with offerings from vendors like Pomegranate and EuroGraphics, and around Christmas in particular sold a good many Springbok puzzles. Socks have been another relatively recent addition to the store. Foster said she resisted the idea of carrying socks for a while, but now she can't keep Sock it to Me socks in stock. Puppets made by FolkManis, Foster added, have been another popular addition.

Lucy Lu Designs

As for perennial sellers, Foster reported that she's "always shocked at the amount of cards we sell," and also pointed to magnets and calendars. Foster noted that she doesn't typically do political magnets, and instead prefers "artsy magnets" from Lucy Lu Designs, funny magnets from Ephemera Inc. and Breaking Bad-themed magnets made by a local artist, who also makes dish towels, T-shirts and mugs based on the show. Foster also stocks Frida Kahlo magnets from Mexican vendor Gusano de Luz that do well. Other local sidelines include lip balms and soaps made by a company called Laughing Turtle, and sage kits made in Santa Fe that "jump off the shelf."

At Roebling Point Books & Cafe in Covington, Ky., co-owner Richard Hunt reported that cards made by local artists and photographers outsell other types of greeting cards by "four or five to one," and expected that a similar ratio would hold true for most booksellers around the country. Hunt carries a local version of the board game Monopoly called Covington-opoly, which features his bookstore as one of the spaces on the board and was made by board game company Late for the Sky. Hunt explained that it was commissioned as a fundraiser by local community group Renaissance Covington, and though the fundraiser has ended, he has since reordered the board game, with a royalty going to Renaissance Covington.

One thing that Hunt's store "came to later" was vintage inkwells, which he said pair up with the store's antiquarian stock very well and are almost as much about decor as about sales. He sells them usually for three figures each, and while they may not move as quickly as other items, they "show up more in social media feeds than anything else in the store," with customers taking pictures of them "all day long." He said he felt they had an additional, non-monetary value, partly as a way for the store to "differentiate" itself. Hunt does not have a reliable source of supply for the inkwells, as he procures them himself, often through online searches. But those searches can also yield other popular, distinctive items, such as cachets of old postcards.

Valley Cruise Press

In Bozeman, Mont., some of the Country Bookshelf's bestselling lines of nonbook items include the "usual standards"--cards and magnets. Owner Ariana Paliobagis explained that locally made cards tend to be the store's bestselling cards, and popular lines of magnets include those made by magnetic poetry, Yay! Magnets (of which Paliobagis said she was initially skeptical but has "reordered and reordered them ad nauseum") and magnets from a local artist who carves images into stones. In recent months, Paliobagis has been gradually expanding the store's sideline offerings, and newer additions include chocolates made by Theo Chocolate, which have done "phenomenally well," and enamel pins from Peter Pauper Press and Valley Cruise Press.


Paliobagis has also experimented with bringing in more fun, lighthearted sidelines, from games and toys to funny office supplies. She's had success with finger and hand puppets made by Canadian company Cate and Levi, posters by Obvious State, cord wraps from Bobino and otter-shaped tape dispensers by a company called Streamline. Of the tape dispensers, Paliobagis said they "sell immediately," and added that whenever she puts Obvious State posters in a window display, they do extremely well. Looking ahead, Paliobagis said her next sidelines experiment would likely be candles from Frostbeard Studio. --Alex Mutter

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