April 15, 2011

Love Your Indie!

Today I have a story to share.  Please forgive me if it's a little long, and read to the end if you can - it's important!

Once upon a time, there was a teacher who loved books.  He loved people and the stories they had to tell, and he loved his community.

Me and Scott in a photo that is not at all posed :)
Wanting to share his love of books and reading and enrich his community, Scott Meyer started his bookstore by accident.  (He says if he'd ever had any business classes, he never would have done it since he's done all the things they tell you not to do!)

He started out with two tables, borrowed from a local school on Friday nights.  He set up his books on a street corner at the main intersection in Millbrook, NY, and sold them on weekends, returning the borrowed tables to the school on Sundays at dark.

In 1983 Scott Meyer got an actual storefront, and sold his first book there in 1984.  He didn't have enough stock, so he went to the local library each week, borrowed books for his window display, and put up a sign telling people that if they wanted to read the books they could get them from the library after he returned them, and if they wanted to own the books, he could order them.  It gave him a window full of books, helped his fledgling business off the ground, and promoted the local library.

The bookstore moved four times, but has been located here for many years:
Merritt Bookstore, Millbrook, NY, owned and run by Scott Meyer
There is nothing like a bookstore.

Especially a local, community, independent bookstore.

But our indies need our love and support, or they will soon be a thing of the past.

At the time Scott first opened his doors, there were 5200 independent bookstores in the U.S.  Today, there are fewer than 1800.

Even the big chains are struggling.  Walden Books is gone.  Borders has declared bankruptcy.  Barnes & Noble is closing 50% of their stores.  The bookstores that remain open no longer sell only books.  They've added toys and other items to their merchandise in order to boost the bottom line.

And indie bookstores have it hardest of all.  How to compete with the big chains which can afford to discount books, especially Amazon and companies like it where the books are less expensive and you don't even have to leave your house or consume fuel to get them?  And how to cope with the new popularity of electronic books?

It's all about community.

At Merritt, 68 out of every 100 dollars spent there goes back into the community.  At the big chain bookstores, that figure is not more than 12 out of 100.  For Amazon, it's probably 0.

Scott is involved with the local schools and library, he serves on the Millbrook Business Association, he supports local businesses, offers his store space to display the work of local artists, supports girl scouts and 4H, and runs events to encourage reading while also bringing business to Millbrook.  For a Harry Potter event, he once had 72 high school students sleep over in the store.

As the book business has grown more difficult, Scott has been forced to look for out of town events, like the New York State Readers Association Conference in Saratoga Springs, events he does in addition to all the local ones, in order to stay in business so his community can have a bookstore.  The bookstores that are surviving do so through the incredibly hard work and dedication of their owners.

It is a tremendous challenge to stay solvent.  Scott hasn't made money in a while.  But he believes his community deserves a bookstore.

And it is a fortunate community that has his bookstore.
Merritt is well stocked...

...cozy and inviting...


...a place to browse and enjoy!
To Scott, everyone who comes through his door is famous.  Everyone has a talent or a skill.  Everyone has stories to tell.  Everyone is important.  He converses daily with stone masons, dancers, historians, cloud-catchers, teachers, authors, stay-at-home moms, doctors and people of every kind and he enjoys them all.

His is a writer's bookstore - he loves authors and is excited for their books and the wrk they do.  Witness the lovely display of local author Susanna Leonard Hill :)


He knows his customers.  When he hears of a new book he thinks, oh! so-and-so would love that, and makes a point to let them know.

You don't get that from Amazon or a chain bookstore.

So please support your indie bookstore if you have one.  They are precious and few, and our communities would not be the same without them!
7th graders shadow Scott to learn about the book business

Do you have an indie bookstore near you?  Post its name and location in the comments and give it a shout-out!
Reactions:

6 comments:

  1. So cool to have such a great book presence in your community! Unfortunately, I don't have an Indie anywhere near me. With the way the book business is headed, I wouldn't be surprised if Indies were the only bookstores around in 10 years.

    Cool article and thanks for sharing!

    EJ

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  2. I don't have one near me either, he sounds a lovely man. Lot's of generosity and community spirit. It's such a shame the way things are going. Let's hope you can keep him in business Susanna :)

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  3. We're lucky to have a bookstore in our little northern Iowa town, and I'm lucky to get to work there! It's called Bookadee (http://bookadee.com).

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  4. Avid Reader in West End Brisbane is a favourite of mine. Not only do they have an amazing collection of books, they also hold regular book launches and discussions with interesting authors. Go the indie bookstore!

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  5. My local indie is Woodbridge Books uk fantastic choice of books, if they have not got it in they can order in very quickly pop in and say hello

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  6. Anonymous - Indies are the best, aren't they? :)

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