New Boston Area Bookstore to Open May 4

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On Saturday, May 4, while booksellers attending BookExpo America at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center are visiting publishers, grabbing advance readers’ copies, and networking, Annie Bauman will be ladling Kool-Aid at the grand opening of Village Books in Roslindale, Massachusetts. The 900-square-foot store is opening in a resolutely independent community midway through its renaissance.

Roslindale is an ethnically diverse outer borough of Boston proper but geographically isolated. Bauman told BTW, "It has seven ethnic bakeries and many independent businesses. The only chain business is a Fleet Bank." She noted that "the nearest chain bookstore is hard to get to. People in this community are passionate about shopping their own backyard." Bauman noted, too, that her own backyard and house are within "spitting distance" of the new store. She said that the community has been extremely supportive of her plans: "Nobody ever says ‘Oh damn, another bookstore.’"

Bauman came to bookselling indirectly. She was "a casualty of the dot-coms. I was laid off from my job in sales and marketing at the digital New York Times. I wanted to move into business ownership. After working in the Internet field, I saw money burned-through recklessly. There was not enough heart and soul. I went to work selling books to find that."

She worked at Newtonville Books in Newton, Massachusetts, with owner Tim Huggins and at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Massachusetts, with co-owner/ manager Dana Brigham. "It gave me great experience, and they were both so generous," Bauman said. "There are not many industries where I could get a peek at the financials and learn the whole pulse and rhythm of the business. I’m so glad I did that -- I saw that it was hard work and not always glamorous."

Bauman spent about seven months writing and revising a business plan, which she shared with people inside and outside the industry. She has relied on it consistently and credits it for keeping her on track. She knows that the store can make it without huge crowds, by building a steady business base of local customers. "We [independents] have to exploit what we do best. We’re nimble and can hold customers’ hands. Customers come in looking for great recommendations and someone guiding them through book buying," she said.

The store will be actively participating in Book Sense, which Bauman describes as "awesome." It’s her belief that "it’s not enough to be open for business, we have to work at offering customers more -- they can buy books here or we can get them any book they want in about 48 hours. We have to capitalize on the things we can do that chains and online sellers can’t."

For Bauman, "the personality of the store, and its staff makes all the difference," and she said that she hoped customers would quickly come to depend on Village Books’ recommendations. In hiring booksellers for the store, she said, "I looked for voracious readers and hired a college student who had been a bookseller and an ex-teacher. Teachers have great organizational abilities and time-management skills. They will be a critical part of our identity."

Village Books, opening May 4, is located at 751 South Street in Roslindale; the store phone number is (617) 325-1994; e-mail [email protected] or [email protected]. --Nomi Schwartz