Opening a Bookstore? Are You Nuts?

open a bookstore

It’s the discussion-of-the-moment on most people’s lips — are books a dying breed?  Are bookstores dying even faster?  Even with the final demise of Borders and the powerhouse that is the eReader, these are not untimely questions.  So why would someone be interested in starting and opening a bookstore?

It was the closing of our local Reading, PA Borders that was the impetus for me to open The Wise Owl Bookstore, a venture long-dreamt-of but hardly long-planned.  I jumped blindly and idealistically into the world of Book Shop Ownership and ignored the naysayers who gawked, wide-eyed at my admission that I was considering OPENING a BOOK STORE in THIS day-and-age?!

Yes, I was; and Yes, I did.

The lessons learned from opening The Wise Owl are so numerous.  It’s been a whirlwind — much busier and more well-received than I had anticipated for a new-opened store (of any kind).  Then the (not unexpected) news of Borders hit the airwaves and I don’t think I’ve gotten through a day without someone asking me, with a long face, cautiously, the way you ask someone whose close relative has a terminal disease: “How are things going?”

It’s as symptom of a cause, unfortunately.  The mindset now is cheap, easy, fast, and accessible.  Your local downtown bookstore can give you the cheap, but the definitions of “easy, fast, and accessible” became instantaneously meaningless with the invention of the eBook.  It’s not a fad, but a real shift in the way we perceive literature and information.

For the time-being, though, books still exist, bookstores still exist, and perhaps more than that, READERS of Books still exist — of all shapes and sizes.  Those who tell me they loooove used books, and those who turn up their noses at them.  Those who shop for Books-As-Gifts, and those who buy only for their own pleasure (just as noble, in my opinion!)  Hardcover Hoarders vs. Paperback Protectors.  The ones who dog-ear their books with reckless abandon, and those who trade-in titles that look like they’ve never been touched.  The lone man scoping out a rare children’s book, the couple debating between Bradbury and Burroughs — I see these people, see them every day, and YES sometimes the days are slow and ponderous and YES sometimes two ladies will walk in, walk a brisk lap around the store, and walk out again without a How-D’ye-Do (I’m convinced there’s some new exercise program out there called Speed Book Browsing — Great For Your Calves!! because how in the WORLD can you see titles at that velocity?) and YES sometimes you find that fantastically rare and wonderful customer who doesn’t ask “How do you really hope to compete with the eBooks?” and asks you awesome, insightful questions and Listens to your recommendations and then HOLY MOSES comes back again!

Sometimes all these things and a lot more happen, and it’s BECAUSE of books, because you don’t just walk into a store selling books if you don’t believe in books, and in finding illumination in the written word.  So this in a nutshell answers the question to why did I open a bookstore.

When we were setting up our bookstore the information we found was a little lacking to say the least and that’s why we decided to put some of the trials and tribulations to hopefully help someone in their quest to open their bookstore.  While I would like to say everything was done perfectly, it wasn’t, but maybe we can help you from making some of the same mistakes.

We applaud your efforts in looking into how to open a bookstore.  If you have the courage to face continual questions from friends and family about your sanity and keeping local bookstores and the art of reading alive, your road will be rocky and frustrating but in my opinion, well worth the effort.