Bookselling Veteran Takes the Helm of Elm Street Books

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After 15 years of owning and running the thriving R.J. Julia Booksellers, in Madison, Connecticut, starting July 1, Roxanne Coady will oversee management of the three-year-old Elm Street Books in New Canaan, Connecticut, with an option to buy. Lance Fensterman, formerly of Bound to be Read in St. Paul, Minnesota, was hired as the new store manager. "I'm thrilled about it," said Coady, who had worked with Elm Street previously as a consultant. "New Canaan is a great market and a terrific little town that seems to value the same things we do in Madison, like supporting independent businesses."

Elm Street Books, a 3,700-square-foot space in a handsome brick building, was launched by a group of local residents who invested in and opened the store following the closure of the New Canaan Bookshop. Management from Elm Street Books, which will be called R.J. Julia at Elm Street Books, had previously asked Coady to partner with the bookstore. After watching the bookstore go through a lot of staff turnover, she decided it was time to help out.

Susan Rein, managing partner of the investment group at Elm Street, told BTW that it will be "wonderful to see [Roxanne] in action." Rein added, "Her coming on board gives us the benefit of her huge amount of experience and will take us to the next level.... We'll be pleased to watch her put her experience through our doorway." Rein also mentioned that she was looking forward to working with Fensterman, who brings his own considerable know-how of managing and marketing a large bookstore.

Coady's experience should be a major plus in New Canaan, a quaint, upscale town about 55 miles west of Madison. "The communities of New Canaan and Madison have some similarities," she explained. "By bringing in similar merchandise, dedication to customer service, and inventory selection found at R.J. Julia to Elm Street should give us the opportunity to grow that business. We're really excited."

Her plans for the store include a "couple of things," she said. Elm Street staff members, each of whom Coady has met with individually ("They're great. There's a lot of talent there") will take R.J. Julia's customer-service training program, and she will evaluate and possibly augment or alter the inventory.

"The biggest change," Coady said, "will be a dramatic rearranging of the store, but it will be reorganizing instead of remodeling." Over the summer, she'll restructure bookcases and bring in some area rugs to "create little comfortable nooks." In September, the bookstore will have a "Grand Welcoming." Coady will also co-ordinate the events calendar of both bookstores and feature them in a combined newsletter.

Looking ahead, Coady said, "For 15 years R.J. Julia has had enormous community support. We've been very fortunate. We're hoping that's the kind of relationship we can develop in New Canaan." -- Karen Schechner