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Spotlight on an Indie Bookstore: The Voracious Reader

February 1, 2012

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Bobbie:

I am so pleased to profile The Voracious Reader for this month’s Spotlight on an Indie Bookstore (check out the other great stores we’ve profiled here). The Voracious Reader in Larchmont, NY is constantly awing me with its tailored approach to bookselling and ability to rally their community, and since the store is about to celebrate its 5th anniversary next month, I knew this would be the perfect time to share what makes it so special!

Going into this store is like adventuring into Wonderland: everything down to the décor, maze-like layout of the store, and cozy conjoining teashop, reminds me of Lewis Carrol’s classic! Alas, there’s no Madhatter! But this staff would rather you dream up and act out the character all your own, anyway. It’s a place where imagination takes sway, where the whole family can browse, relax, and indulge in some fantastic books and scones in the comfort of a community-oriented store and surrounded by a staff who know their books!

New York and Westchester readers, if you are in the Larchmont area, please make a trip out to The Voracious Reader– it is well worth a visit!

And if you happen to be in the area this Friday evening, February 3, the Voracious Reader welcomes you to “A Night with Newbery Winners,” a very special event, which will feature a reading, Q&A, and book- signing with two renowned Newbery winning authors, Patricia Reilly Giff and Rebecca Stead, as well as their editor, Wendy Lamb, VP and Publishing Director of Wendy Lamb Books. More info here.

Check out their website here and their blog here!

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Background on the store

The Voracious Reader (“… for young people with an appetite for books”), is about to celebrate its fifth birthday this March. Owner Francine Lucidon opened the store in 2007 with the hope of creating a community hub for the celebration of book culture.

“I believe that joyful learning is everyone’s birthright ” says Lucidon, and fun is indeed a priority at the store and its many events.

 

As the owner or buyer, what is your role? What are your day to day job responsibilities?

Everyone who works here pretty much has a hand in everything, although I do most of the book buying. We are all voracious readers and voracious talkers about the books we love. We also all sweep and do windows.

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What sets The Voracious Reader apart from chain stores or online competitors?

We’re a highly curated store. Each book is carefully selected with our customers in mind. We also love supporting debut authors, hold lots of launch parties and go out of our way to promote first books.

We also try to keep it all about the books. We don’t want to be a gift shop or a toy store, so even the sidelines we carry are things like T-shirts with classic kids books on them (with proceeds going ,in part, to literacy programs), Mo Willems’ talking pigeon, writing journals … it’s all about books and writing. We also are WritopiaLabs’ southern Westchester home, offering writing classes for kids ages 8 – 18.

What, if any, new things are you doing to stay competitive during these tough times and to serve the needs of your customers?

This past summer we took over the space next door (expanding to 2200 square feet) and opened a tea shop. This has allowed us to become even more of a destination. Customers can now make an afternoon of it, browse, sit for tea and scones, and finally select their purchases. It fits beautifully with our message of slowing down, making time to share books and time with our families.

What kinds of creative events or storytime events have you done?

A better question is “What haven’t we done?!” Neil Gaiman selected us as first prize winners in the Graveyard Book Party contest a couple Halloweens ago because we brought in a live horse as part of our celebration. Don’t ask about the not-so-dry run for that event!

My recent favorite was an evening celebration of the performing arts, Stages on Pages. In addition to six amazing YA authors, we had local teens singing, a string quartet and a dramatic monologue. Bringing in our teens and their families made it truly a community event.

Among many other storytimes for little ones, we hold a special Mommy Monday event for our very youngest ‘readers in arms.’ After a local baby boom I was seeing first time moms coming in with huge prams, several bags and a mother in law in tow and these poor women looked positively shell shocked.

Remembering those days of overwhelming moments, I knew if I could get them up and dressed and out of the house by 11 am on a Monday, I’d have made their whole week for them. Plus I get to see and play with all the lovely new babies.

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What books have you made bestsellers at your store because the staff got behind them?

Favorites have been Kristin Cashore’s Graceling, which we hand-sold as the upgrade to Twilight, the clever middle grade mystery Walls Within Walls by Maureen Sherry, and we’ve moved into adult titles that work well as teen crossovers, specifically Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

How important are your e-newsletter and social media to your customer outreach?

Our newsletter is, I think, a very important means of communication. Years ago, as a new mom, I’d get the Chinaberry Catalogue and I really looked forward to the opening letter each season, which was often personal and inspiring. I try to offer some inspiration in my newsletter as well, encouragement in these stressful, high pressure times we live in. It’s a vehicle for us to keep our message of connection with our families in the forefront, to encourage parents to slow down, unplug, and spend time with their children and some good books.

Facebook and Twitter and our new blog work well for us too. I’ve set up events based on Twitter connections as well as found two terrific employees that way.

How do you feel about business going into the New Year?

It’s exciting to approach our fifth birthday. My customers have grown, we’ve grown. People come from all across Westchester county, families visiting from out of town. We’ve built a reputation that we’re very proud of and we are constantly seeking new and varied ways to serve our community. I’m very optimistic about this new year as indies seem to be coming into their own. People are beginning to make choices on the basis of value, not simply cost or convenience. They see the value that indies bring to their communities and to their lives.

What are your favorite titles out this season?

Right now we’re on the brink of spring titles coming in but there are still some books from the fall that we love and promote. I’m still in love with You Against Me, by Jenny Downham, and Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, as well as Maile Meloy’s Apothecary. One new (almost) spring title I’m excited about is a debut by local author Veera Hiranandani, The Whole Story of Half a Girl. In fact we’re having her launch party here this Saturday, February 4th!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 1, 2012 8:44 am

    It just sounds wonderful, & I’m sorry that I live way out in Colorado, but this is such a great story of someone who has made success in some of the worst of our economic times these past 5 years. Congratulations to them! Here in Denver we are fortunate to have several lovely independent bookstores & one–The Bookies–caters to children and teachers. I don’t remember them ever having a horse visit, but they do many interesting events for their readers.

  2. February 2, 2012 1:13 am

    Yum, sounds like my type of place!

  3. roger permalink
    February 2, 2012 10:09 am

    A great bookstore — the owner’s dedication, depth of knowledge, and love of children’s books is astonishing!

  4. February 3, 2012 9:04 pm

    Francine is a gift to the world of books. Her knack and her knowledge provide both her customers and her colleagues with excitement and respect for all the best things books and kids bring to life.

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