Our opening week, we were planning on doing it very softly. However, the Ann Arbor community was so supportive, as soon as we opened our doors, people were buying books. This is a good thing. Though we have had some hiccups (like running out of receipt paper on Day #1 or thinking we had lost all our sales when really we just weren’t pressing a computer button) so far, so good. We’ve learned a lot so far, both about ourselves, our business, and what Ann Arbor is buying. Thank you to everyone who has had the patience with us as we’ve stammered and stuttered our way through getting our computers up and our special order system (which we are still smoothing out). Here are some other things we’ve learned so far:
-Customers themselves are each others’ salespeople. We were thinking that we would have to do a lot more individual hand-selling to customers than we’ve done. While we get many customers asking for recommendations — which we LOVE — many more people simply browse with a companion and pick up books and say, “Oh have you read this? It’s the best. You have to get it.” And they buy it. That peer-to-peer book interaction, so frequently overheard here, is part of what is lost when you buy online. By far this has been the biggest surprise, just listening to people excitedly talk about books.
-On a similar note, the basement is perfect for couples’ browsing. Many people we’ve noticed just grab a drink at Arbor Brewing or Grizzly Peak or Amadeus, head over to the bookshop, and just wander. Sometimes there are more people in the basement than upstairs, which is something we never expected. We’re planning on putting a few chairs outside so people can just read on the sidewalk. No fuss, no hassle, just a place to sit and read.
-People will steal. I hate writing it, but it’s true. We’ve already had experiences with customer theft. There is a special hell for someone who steals from a small 2600 sq. ft. bookstore that’s swimming in debt.
-Poetry is our second strongest section. (!!) This has to do with a few factors: Russ and John, two of our awesome employees, are also graduates of the MFA poetry program at Michigan. They have curated a pretty great poetry section, one that we believe is the best in the entire state of Michigan. We stand proudly by our poetry section and we continue to schedule great poets for our store.
-Other strong sections are science and math, fiction (obviously), cookbooks, and essays.
-Science fiction / fantasy was heavily requested by those in the community, so we expanded! We’ll keep monitoring this new section (as we do with all our sections) but this was our first major change since opening.
-Our events are rocking. The Keith Taylor event was just insane. That’s because Keith is an outstanding poet and people love his work. Raymond McDaniel did a fantastic and beautiful introduction, and our first night coinciding with the FestiFools was a smashing success. It was standing room only. As such, we realized our basement gets very hot when you pack tons of people inside. It was just a wonderful night. Thank you Keith and Ray. We still have signed copies of The Ancient Murrelet, so come to the store and pick up one. It’s the perfect chapbook to read outside during a peaceful spring day.
-Kevin Smokler gave a fantastic reading of his Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School. Kevin is outgoing and a great guy; he dressed in full cap-and-gown to address the audience. Everyone was reminded about a few of those classics we should probably reread. Thank you for all your support, Kevin!
-Loreen Niewenhuis talked about her experience walking the shorelines of all 5 Great Lakes!
-Harlequin Creature stopped by and made custom bookmarks with an old letter press! We’re selling Harlequin Creature’s hand-typed literary journal in our store (and I think there are still a few custom bookmarks around) so get ‘em before they’re gone.
Events coming up:
-Every Saturday we have CHILDREN’S STORY TIME! 11am. Deb has done a pirate-themed reading and a cowboy/cowgirl-themed reading. It’s a great way to spend your morning around Ann Arbor!
-On Friday May 17th, we’re hosting our first music event in the store! Come at 8pm and check out winter/sessions, a Michigan folk band!
-On Friday May 24th, we’re hosting an evening of poetry with Gahl Liberzon, Haley Patail, and Aimee Le. Gahl will read from his collection, “Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies” as well as some new stuff. You won’t want to miss these up-and-coming poets for what will be a very energetic and great event for us. Get here early as we’re expecting a huge crowd.
Finally, thank you everyone for your continued patience as we smooth out our ruffles and kinks. Running any small business is hard work, and I just want everyone to know Hilary and I are working as hard as we possibly can to give downtown Ann Arbor the best small independent general bookstore that we can. It’s tons of work, but it honestly doesn’t feel like work. It feels like we are creating something good and we are always boosted by all your wonderful and warm feedback. The store is new and we are learning and growing our inventory, but we hope, in a few years from now, that our bookstore will be a pretty special place.
A sincere thank you to everyone who has stopped by, offered us a word of encouragement, a supportive cookie or hug, flowers, cards, typewriters, wine, champagne, signed David Mitchell posters, suggestions, smiles, and kind sentences. You continue to be the boost we need and make this entire process worthwhile and wonderful.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.