Spotlight on an Indie Bookstore: Boulder Bookstore
From time to time, we feature in-depth profiles of great independent bookstores around the country. We hope to give our readers a closer look at what makes these bookstores unique and exciting. Today, we continue the weeklong spotlight on three bookstores from different regions that began Monday with Sarah’s post on blue manatee books. If you live in any of these areas, please stop by, or check out your local indie to see what makes them special! And don’t forget, many of these indie bookstores sell Google eBooks on their websites, which is a great way to fill up your eReader and support a local store.
Today, I am thrilled to introduce you to Boulder Bookstore, located in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder Bookstore is an eclectic mainstay in the charming college town, and the staff is full of passionate, interesting book-lovers. I’ve called on them for the past 10 years, and while they have maintained their business by selling books the “old-fashioned way,” by figuring out the right books to put into their customers’ hands, reading constantly, displaying their staff picks and working tirelessly with other local businesses to support each other, they have also thrived in this “new era of bookselling.” Boulder Bookstore was the first store I work with to adopt electronic catalogs, and they are nimble at adapting to new technology as it helps them reach more customers and better serve their needs.
Answering my questions today is Liesl, the children’s buyer. She is smart, funny and a fervent reader. Thanks for joining us, Liesl!
Can you give us a little background on the store?
Boulder Book Store was founded in 1973 by owner David Bolduc. Originally located at 1133 Pearl Street, the back 1/3 of the building was a Mexican import store, the basement was a plant store, and the upstairs were offices. The store began with only 10 bookcases and 5 employees. Now, almost 40 years later, the Boulder Book Store employs over 50 people and occupies 20,000 sq. feet, with more than 100,000 titles spread over three floors. When the current building was remodeled for the bookstore in 1991, David hired a feng shui consultant to design where such things as the front entrance, the safe, and the business office ought to be located. During the remodeling, David used the most energy-efficient lighting, heating, windows, and building materials (including a tin ceiling on the main floor to replicate the historic style while saving energy), earning the bookstore an Energy Star Award.
What is your role? What are your day-to-day job responsibilities?
While my title is buyer, I find myself doing so much more, from buyer to receiver to seller all the way to the bitter end-processing returns. I straighten, I hold the hands of new uncles looking for baby shower gifts. I listen to Grandparents reminisce about the books that they have read to their kids and I talk to toddlers about what their hamster is named. I buy new books, get excited when they come in and cry a little for the ones that don’t sell. And that is what I do as a buyer.
What sets your store apart from chain stores or online competitors?
Personality, knowledge, and human contact! Independent stores are a reflection of their community, and we are certainly a reflection of the typical Boulderite, both in our staffing, our design, and what we carry. We also have booksellers that are passionate and knowledgeable about books, and who love to have conversations about books – obviously something you don’t get from an online retailer
What, if any, new things are you doing to stay competitive during these tough times and to serve the needs of your customers?
We are trying the sidelines boost. We have always carried toys and whatnot, but usually fairly conservative with a few core companies. This year we are venturing out and carrying new lines. We have done some remodeling and that always keeps things lively! I am spending more time personally on the floor and talking with customers about our books.
What kinds of creative events or storytime events have you done?
Our storytime events are always more than a storytime – we usually have a craft or art project associated with the book that the author leads after the book is read. We also have a partnership with the Boulder Ballet Company – every Thanksgiving they put on the Nutcracker ballet, so a few weeks before their performance, they send a few ballerinas to BBS to read The Nutcracker in costume, and then teach the children some dance moves. We also had an event this past weekend with Pendred Noyce for her new book Lost in Lexicon, where she talked about writing the book, read a little bit from the beginning, and then we had stations set up around the room that represented different villages from her book, where kids could have fun with words and numbers (Scarletta Press put together the Lexicon Villages event in collaboration with Penny, so any school or bookstore can do this fun event).
What books have you made bestsellers at your store because the staff got behind them?
We have really gotten behind The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairlyand in a Ship of her own Making (Macmillan). We have sold 67 copies since it came out in June. I passed it on to 2 of our staff members and they have really taken it far. Melonhead (Random House) is another book that I have a great time hand selling – I have passed it to all of the 3rd graders that my kids know and I think we are 3rd in sales across the country. Waiting for Winter (EDC) is a personal favorite this year. Although it is an older book, I just discovered it when the sales rep who was new to the line didn’t realize that it was a backlist title and had it in his sales kit, talk about serendipity! I want to hug this book every time I see it!
How important are your e-newsletter and social media to your customer outreach?
Pretty important – our e-newsletter is the main way we inform our customers about upcoming events and cool new books. We also use Facebook and Twitter to connect with many of our Young Adult customers about teen news (particularly updates on the Hunger Games movie).
How do you feel about business going into the holiday season?
We are cautiously optimistic – times have been tough for indies, but we are lucky to be in a community where people are dedicated to reading and to supporting local business.