Former high school science teacher Cassie Clemans will open Roundabout Books, a general-interest bookstore and café, in Bend, Oregon, in early October.
Clemans, who has lived in the scenic mountain city of Bend with her husband and three children for the past five years, said the new 1,500-square-foot store will sell new books and will feature “a very thorough children’s section.”
“We moved to Bend for the lifestyle, which is why most people live in Bend,” said Clemans. “It’s also a great place to raise kids. Where we’re located, we’re surrounded by about six different schools, from elementary school to high school, so the store will be 35 to 40 percent children’s books with the rest being adult fiction and nonfiction, including books on the arts, film, and theater and Northwest regional culture.”
The store’s selection of books will ultimately depend on what the community wants, said Clemans, adding that she would definitely like to feature a strong science section. “I really enjoy talking about science, but I have also always been very literary-minded,” she said. “I’ve always been a lifelong booklover. I’m opening the bookstore simply because I love books and bookstores, and sharing stories with my friends. It’s something that I really want in our community, and I’m trusting that others do, too.”
Non-book items at Roundabout will include reading and writing-related items, such as stationery cards, notebooks, and pencils, as well as toys, games, puzzles, and possibly T-shirts and coffee mugs. About 300 to 400 square feet of floor space will be reserved for a café, serving coffee, tea, wine, local beer, and snacks, all locally sourced when possible.
“We won’t have a kitchen and we won’t be preparing food; it’s more about buying and reselling local food and local beer. There are 18 different breweries in Bend and some sell their beer nationwide,” Clemans said.
Roundabout Books is located in the new Trend Building in Northwest Crossing, a residential community on the far west side of Bend, on Mount Washington Drive, and gets its name from the roundabout, or traffic circle, on which the building is located.
“Bend is known for its roundabouts,” Clemans said. “We have them all around the city. There is even a special Roundabout Art Route tour, featured on the city tourism website. So we wanted a name that felt like Bend.”
Before moving to Bend, Clemans lived with her family in Arizona, where she and her husband ran a solar electronics installation company. Clemans still handles HR and accounting for the Arizona business, working from her kitchen table in Bend.
Clemans was inspired to open her own bookstore after getting tired of constantly traveling east to visit Barnes & Noble and other bookstores on the opposite side of town. “I thought, ‘I’m a small business owner; I can figure this out,” she said.
The most challenging aspect to date for Clemans has been the significant time commitment required, in combination with all of her other responsibilities, including the Arizona business and taking care of two school-age children.
“I understand what it takes to build a business, so that part of it I was pretty prepared for,” she said. “But I’m doing everything myself, really, and I’m now really seeing the benefit of having a partner. A long time ago my husband and I went into business with a partner and it didn’t work out, so we decided our businesses weren’t going to be partnerships anymore. I wasn’t expecting everything to take so long. We have a budget and a timeline to open, but when there is one delay, there’s always a domino effect.”
Clemans said she has a $150,000 loan from the Small Business Administration and the rest of the store’s funding is a personal investment. At the moment, Roundabout is entirely planned out, and all café equipment and fixtures will be delivered in mid-September. However, the building on Mount Washington Drive is brand-new construction and Clemans is still working with the city on permits.
“The building itself is finally permitted and the restaurant next to me is open. Now the focus is on my store space, but it’s taking some time and some revision,” she said. “The building will be at full occupancy by the first week of September, and I hope to open the store the first week of October. I’m working with the city and the building owners so we can wrap this thing up.”
When the store finally opens, Clemans plans to host numerous literary and community-centered programs, many of them non-author events, since it’s not an easy feat for many authors to travel to Bend.
“We are kind of an isolated town because you have to cross the mountains to get to Portland or any other big city, so it is really important to me to offer a lot of non-author events,” said Clemans, although she would like to showcase books by local authors. “I plan to do a lot of book clubs, and I’ve already had people call up about that. I’d also like to do workshops and summer camps next summer.”
Clemans would also like to host family fun nights, like pajama parties and board game nights, as well as teen open mic nights and wine and coloring nights. In addition, Clemans looks forward to working with the local schools, offering tours for school classes where students can learn about the value of independent bookstores, enjoy a private story time or scavenger hunt, and take home store coupons.
“I really want to do in-store book fairs and fundraisers and to work with authors who are willing to go to the schools,” she said. “I also definitely want to do an educator program with local teachers and give out a 10 percent teacher discount.”