Alsace Walentine on Laying the Foundations for Her New Bookstore

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Alsace Walentine, the former author events coordinator at Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, North Carolina, will be providing Bookselling This Week with periodic updates over the next year on her plans to open a bookstore in St. Petersburg, Florida, in fall 2016. Here is her first installment.

Alsace Walentine writes:

It’s thrilling to start this venture in a new and much larger city (St. Petersburg is roughly three times the size of Asheville, at about a quarter of a million people), and I’ve been overwhelmed by an outpouring of excitement and support from people all over St. Pete.

I’ve been spending this fall laying my foundation, building relationships with local business leaders and the local media by attending Chamber of Commerce events, “Keep St. Pete Local” events, and functions at the Museum of Fine Arts. A wonderful networking event that I enjoyed earlier this fall was a well-established reading festival (in its 23rd year) organized by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Tampa Bay Times. This year’s headliner was Judy Blume, but I was most excited to meet Margo Jefferson, author of Negroland. Another highlight was seeing that Colette Bancroft, the Tampa Bay Times books editor, had a standing-room-only crowd of my potential future customers!

Other things I’m working on right now are taking some classes to fill in gaps in my knowledge. I just completed a 10-week course with St. Pete’s business incubator. I’m studying the area’s geography, traffic patterns, demographics, and psychographics to determine the best possible locations for the store. I’m also working with a graphic designer and branding consultant on choosing the store name and designing a logo.

Meanwhile, I’ve been reflecting on my 16 years at Malaprop’s and identifying the things I’d like to do differently and the things I’d like to replicate, and I continue to visit bookstores wherever and whenever I travel to discuss best practices with store owners and managers. Most recently, I visited Indy Reads Books in Indianapolis and Union Ave Books in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Over the coming months I will be interviewing and selecting a banker, a lawyer, an accountant, and an architect and builder. I’m looking forward to attending the Winter Institute and sharing more updates at that time!