This week, BTW shines the spotlight on three bookstores in Albuquerque, New Mexico: Bookworks, Bound to Be Read, and Page One. Each has created a niche in the state of enchantment with its own style of community involvement. And one common practice they share is working with other local independent businesses to build their consumer base, share advertising costs, and contribute to the independent tenor of Albuquerque.
Bound to be Read was opened eight years ago by Julia Coyte, who got her start in bookselling at Bookworks. She talked with BTW about the beginning of her career in bookselling. "I have always had a thing for retail," she said. "I love all aspects of retail from both the consumer standpoint and the retailer standpoint. And books have always been a huge part of my life. I come from a very long line of very voracious readers. When we moved to Albuquerque, we lived across the street from Bookworks. I did returns for most of my 20 hours a week there and I loved it. I thought if the grunt work was that much fun, I would love the rest of it -- and I do!"
She decided to open her own bookstore and chose the Northeast Heights section of Albuquerque after some preliminary investigation. "We looked long and hard to find a location that would be big enough," Coyte told BTW. "We did a lot of market research to see what book buyers in Albuquerque thought was missing from the area so we went into our new location armed with good information on what Bound to be Read should look like in terms of size, hours, book selection, and events."
Coyte turned what used to be a movie theater into a 9,500 square-foot brightly lit bookstore with nearly 30-foot ceilings and a café. The store has a separate room for its children's section, with the prow of a ship for kids to climb in. Every section is carpeted with first lines of classics, so as you walk around you can look down and read quotes such as "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife" or "Call me Ishmael."
In the store's café, general manager Margaret Shumaker and director of public relations Michelle McFadden talked about their own entrées into bookselling. Schumaker started out at Books and Company in Dayton, Ohio, and has 12 years of experience in the book world. McFadden got involved when she visited Bound to be Read as a rep for the local alternative weekly. "I stumbled into this," she said. "They needed a marketing person. I got very lucky because I love it."
Since she began working at the store two and half years ago, McFadden has sought to work closely with other businesses. The nearby Madstone Theater approached Bound to Be Read when the theater first opened, and they've maintained close ties ever since. The café area in the bookstore can only accommodate about 100 people, so when the store holds an event that it expects will draw a large crowd, they work with the theater. McFadden said, "We use Madstone when we have big authors like Sherman Alexie or T.C. Boyle. It's a comfortable place for an event."
Bound to Be Read uses a ticket system for the theater events. "You get two tickets when you buy a book, or you can make a donation to a charity of the author's choice," said McFadden. "T.C. Boyle chose the Sierra Club. Alexie picked the Roadrunner Food Bank. You could either donate money or food." How much to donate to the charity is "between you and your conscience," she said, adding that many people make generous donations. "But we like for people to pay something otherwise they don't show up. But mostly people buy books to get the tickets." McFadden mentioned that Madstone advertises the partnered events in their newsletter and vice versa. "It's a great way to cross promote," she said. "This way advertising doesn't cost an arm and a leg."
On the opposite end of the city, Bookworks has also committed itself to community involvement and cross promotion. Nancy Rutland opened the 3,000-square-foot store in 1984 and has remained in the same location, but expanded three times. Rutland studied English Lit in college and graduate school and worked in a number of different bookstores prior to opening her own store in a shaded plaza in the rural North Valley near the Rio Grande.
Bookworks staff members (left to right) Lindsay Lancaster, Carolyn Valtos, owner Nancy Rutland, and Russell Villars.
Bookworks has capitalized on the popularity of its relatively new neighbor, The Flying Star café, a family of very popular, locally owned restaurants. Since Flying Star moved in Rutland noted, "A lot more people come here. Bon Appetit rated Flying Star one of the top 10 places for breakfast in the country." BookWorks has remodeled so that the bookstore and the restaurant share a foyer. They've also added a kiva fireplace and bancos. The symbiotic relationship includes the display of table tents in Flying Star featuring some of Bookworks' author readings that the cafe sometimes caters.
BookWorks has also collaborated with local nonprofit organizations. For a Duck for President (S&S) signing and reading by Doreen Cronin and illustrator Betsy Lewin, Bookworks and the Albuquerque League of Women Voters teamed up to create a mock election for kids using actual voting machines and, additionally, served as a real registrar for adults.
Rutland said she has seen sales jump over the past couple of years, much of which she attributes to the efforts of her events coordinator Lindsay Lancaster, who, Rutland said, works very closely with the community. Customers have responded well to the increased number of events. Rutland noted, "People love the excitement of meeting an author they respect." Some upcoming readings, which are also fundraisers, are a Cokie Roberts reading, at an event co-sponsored with the Albuquerque Assistance League and the New Mexico Cancer Center Foundation; and an Amy Goodman reading, co-sponsored with the New Mexico Media Literacy Project.
In keeping with the community-building theme, Steve Morado Stout, owner of New Mexico's largest independent bookstore, the 37,000-square-foot Page One Bookstore and the 12,000-square-foot Page One Too!, is one of the founders of the burgeoning Albuquerque Independent Business Alliance (AIBA). Stout's a believer in "keeping it Querque," AIBA's motto to "buy local." The Alliance will go public on May 19 with a luncheon and a starting membership of 50 businesses, Stout said. (For more information about AIBA, click here.)
In addition to building the alliance, Stout has also partnered with the Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM), the state's largest electricity and natural gas provider. PNM is offering their customers the choice to purchase wind power, a green energy alternative PNM is calling Sky Blue. Stout, who was one of the first customers to join the program, has committed to using wind-power for 50 percent of the energy needs of the bookstores and is promoting Sky Blue in Page One and Page One Too! with in-store posters and handouts for customers to join the Blue Sky project at home. Additionally, PNM is using a blurb from Stout in its radio advertising. (For more about Stout's bookstores, click here.)
Summing up Albuquerque independent bookseller's attitudes about working closely with neighborhood businesses, Rutland stressed the value of cross promotion and forging associations. "I hope people realize the untapped potential in their community," she said. "Even if you've been someplace for 20 years, there still may be alliances to be made." -- Karen Schechner