BTW Hitches a Ride With Lonely Planet

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Lonely Planet, the independent travel publisher, began its tour of independent bookstores on Saturday, May 8. The Lonely Planet RV, decked out with large side panels advertising the "Lonely Planet 2004 Independent Bookstore Road Trip," was baptized by fire, starting the tour in Manhattan, where navigating the 32-foot behemoth presented some parking and navigational difficulties. However, that didn't stop the intrepid Lonely Planet (LP) crew of Gary Todoroff, U.S. trade sales director, and colleagues from visiting Three Lives and Company, Coliseum Books, Shakespeare and Company, St. Mark's Books, Hagstrom Map and Travel, and Brooklyn's Community Bookstore and Book Court.

Elm Street Books in New Canaan,
Pictured are (l. to r.)
Jesse Fankushen (LP's associate marketing manager), Judy Wisentaner, Ann Thurber,
Gary Todoroff (LP's U.S. trade sales director), and Tamara Barr (LP's inventory manager).

R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut. Pictured (l. to r.) are
Chris Gombeski, Sherri Ashburner, Ivy Lantry, Tamara Barr (LP's associate marketing manager), and Ian White (LP RV driver).

On Sunday, Bookselling This Week joined the LP road trip at Elm Street Books for the New England leg of the tour. The tour stopped at New Canaan's Elm Street Books, a year-and-a-half old brick bookstore across the street from the New Canaan train station, which was the station featured in Rick Moody's novel and movie The Ice Storm.

LP and BTW chatted with Judy Wisentaner, Elm Street's manager, and staff members Ann Thurber and Susan Thorndike. Wisentaner discussed the new Book Sense Picks list format and said customers were more apt to pick up the fliers. She also told BTW that the Book Sense Bestseller list often features titles two to three weeks ahead of The New York Times list, adding, "A lot of people see it's better to go with Book Sense. It captures what's really selling at bookstores."

Wisentaner also mentioned an imminent trip to Portugal and LP's Todoroff gave her a Lonely Planet guide to Western Europe.

After Elm Street, the Lonely Planet RV headed north for New Haven to stop in at Atticus Bookstore and Cafe, which has been on Chapel Street since 1976. We passed the Yale campus and LP's Tamara Barr noted that our President's alma mater "looks just like it does on The Gilmore Girls." Inside, we spoke with booksellers Kate Hay and Ricardo Henriquez, who signed the LP tour T-shirt, which will be signed by a representative of each of the 100-plus stores LP will be visiting and will be displayed at BEA. We got some snaps of Hay and Henriquez, grabbed lunch from the stellar Atticus cafe, and jumped back aboard for more madcap bookstore tourism.

Next up was Roxanne Coady's R.J. Julia Booksellers in the coastal town of Madison, Connecticut. The store won PW's Bookseller of the Year in 1995. Bookseller Sherri Ashburner was excited about the fifteenth anniversary of the store coming up next April.

After driving through more of rural Connecticut in all its spring glory of blooming dogwoods, crab apple, and cherry trees, we made our last stop of the day at Bank Square bookstore in Mystic, Connecticut and, for another film tie-in, were right across the street from Mystic Pizza. Manager Paige Bacon and Suzanne Roy added their signatures to the T-shirt and posed for posterity.

To read about Day 3 of the trip, click here.

To read about Day 4 of the trip, click here. --Karen Schechner