“Why open a bookstore now? In this economic climate and when online shopping rules the universe?” is a question we – Alice Burdick, Anne-Marie Sheppard and Jo Treggiari – hear a lot as proud co-owners of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia’s brand-new Lexicon Books.
But the question we three most ask ourselves is: when did our lives not revolve around books?
We are all voracious readers. We are the type of people who can’t walk past a bookstore – new or used – without stopping in and (almost certainly) buying something. We judge towns and cities by their enor- mous, quaint or eclectic bookstores. We revel in the smell of books and the comfort found among them. We share great finds with friends and are passionate about seeking out new authors, stumbling across them or
having someone whose expertise we trust recommend them to us.
The written word informs a great part of our lives.
“Do what you love” is a wonderful mantra, but it is not enough. You also have to be skilled at what you love. Two of us have many years of experience in retail sales and management, and two of us have many years of experience start- ing and nurturing
Transforming our starry-eyed dreams of own- ing a bookstore (“Imagine being surrounded by books all day every day!”) into a viable business model was not easy.
Our space is a mere 500-square-feet. Figuring out our starting inventory versus blowing our entire budget, bearing in mind that the store has to appear fully stocked, is one of those nightmarish math problems we all thought we’d left behind in high school. How many are too many? How few are too few? What’s the ratio between cur- rent literature and classic? Bestsellers and overlooked gems? Which genres to focus on? What do we love and what will our customers love? What selections will best reflect the area in which we live? How can we provide the optimum customer service and the best shopping experience?
And how to compress all that information into something that makes sense? A bookstore is not just a store that sells books. It identifies the people who live and work around it. It is a warm and comforting place to go to. It is a com- munity hub, a culture and arts centre hosting author events and book clubs. It is an information source and a social gathering place. Staffed by knowledgeable people who love books, it is a friendly place to engage with others.
There is no algo- rithm devised by a technician and directed by a computer program that can replace a recommendation from someone who knows your tastes, likes and dislikes, who can make leaps from one author to a similar one, or from one subject to something equally intriguing. The relationship between a bookstore customer and a bookseller is, dare we say it, a sacred one. There is trust there. Trust that the recommendation will be – if not spot-on – at least pretty damn close. And that’s what we’re aiming for.