Before The Book and Cranny opened on Main Street in Statesboro, Georgia, last April, "there was one used bookstore, the university bookstore, and a Christian bookstore, and that was it," said Deborah Campbell. "I was tired of having to drive an hour and a half to buy a book." The former Lucent Technology engineer had hoped that someone else would fill the general bookstore void, but she said, "I waited long enough to realize I had to do it myself."
Campbell then took a year to formulate a business plan, studied ABA resources on BookWeb.org, downloaded a copy of the FabJob Guide to Become a Bookstore Owner, and worked closely with the local small business development center.
A year later, Campbell, who said she had never imagined being in business for herself, loves the autonomy, and her new neighbors love having a general bookstore. "I've made a lot of friends here, who consistently support us," she said. "It's a feel-good situation. We are providing a community service, and it's something a lot of people appreciate. To this day, customers who walk through the door continue to say, 'I can't believe we finally have a real bookstore.'"
Pointing to today's high gas prices, Campbell added, "People also appreciate being able to get their books without having to drive.... Although we have a lot of repeat customers, we get new ones everyday. When they find out I can get them any book they want, I don't charge them anything to order it, and I can get it faster than they can get it from Amazon, they become regulars."
Campbell describes the ambiance of The Book and Cranny as being like a home library: "We have a high comfort level here, with dark wood tones, drapes on the windows, leather chairs, and a chandelier." The store stocks about 10,000 titles in its 1,425 square feet of selling space. "We stock a lot of ones and twos," she said. "We don't carry 10s and 20s because a bookstore needs to present variety. I can get books so quickly, there's no point in carrying huge quantities of any one book."
The store features large children's and fiction sections. On the fiction shelves, Campbell stocks everything from Christian novels to Science Fiction to "get people to look at titles they might not see otherwise." Book and Cranny also carries all of the Book Sense Bestseller titles. "We sell a little bit of everything," she added. "People here have a wide variety of interests."
Those wide-ranging interests are sometimes cause for conflict. Campbell said shelving Wiccan, Pagan, and Buddhist titles near Christian books often affords her the chance to give a refresher course on the First Amendment. "When customers looking for Christian titles see all the New Age titles they sometimes ask, 'Why do you carry this stuff?' I explain that I firmly believe in the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights, and explain that the First Amendment means anyone can read what they want to read and say what they want to say." Campbell said her explanation hasn't lost the store any customers.
Should those conversations spark further interest in the Constitution, The Book and Cranny sells pocket versions for $4.95. "I keep them right on the counter. I've sold about 50 so far," said Campbell. "That's one book I try to keep at least 10 copies of in the store."
In April, Book and Cranny will celebrate its first anniversary with a small party and raffle. Beyond that, Campbell plans to expand operations into the local schools. "I'd like to get into the schools and find out what we can do for them. I think that'll really increase our sales and name recognition. That's my big goal." --Karen Schechner