Books on the Square Opens Its Arms to All

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Sarah Zacks, owner and founder of Books on the Square in Providence, Rhode Island, remembers the difficulty of toting one or more of her five children to downtown stores with few parking spaces and child-unfriendly sales people. That’s why, when she opened her bookstore 10 years ago, she selected a spot with good parking that was six blocks from the crowded Brown University area and away from the congested downtown. The location -- in the shopping district of an upscale neighborhood with a number of small, independent shops -- was also one block from her home, which she shares with her husband, Richard.

The 3,000-square-foot store advertises "Open Books, Open Arms" and welcomes readers of all ages. "I wanted a place to feel comfortable with kids. We originally furnished the store with our old living room furniture. In the summer, we have an activity every Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. for families. We have about five story hours a week."

Children are not the only ones given special attention at Books on the Square. With the Brown Writing Program so close by, author readings and signings are held frequently at the store. Last year, Zacks opened a satellite store in the downtown home of the Trinity Repertory Company theater, occupying a beautiful 500-square-foot corner of the building. The satellite store specializes in theater books as well as general titles.

Zacks has found Book Sense to be a great help to the store. Books on the Square offers a 10 percent discount off all books on the last two Book Sense 76 lists. She keeps the fliers stocked front and center in the store. Zacks’s philosophy is "if I can get you to come in, you’ll come back," and, as a corollary, "if I can get you to buy from the Book Sense 76 list, you will buy from it again." -- Nomi Schwartz