Ariana Paliobagis worked as a bookseller at Country Bookshelf, in Bozeman, Montana, for five years, and dreamed of having her own bookstore since she was young. On December 1, 2010, she began living her dream as the new owner of Country Bookshelf.
The long-standing store is an important community fixture, and Paliobagis wants to keep it that way.
“Our main plan is to continue booking events,” she said. Country Bookshelf boasts several author and community events per month, and Paliobagis introduced a book club this past spring that has been very successful.
“Nothing too drastic,” Paliobagis said, about any changes she might make. “The store is in beautiful shape; we have a great selection; and I have an incredible staff of really dedicated booksellers.”
Country Bookshelf has always prided itself on its staff and their ability to select and handsell books based on shoppers’ interests. “We like to introduce new things to our customers, and we love to hear the ‘I didn’t know this book existed’ comment,” said Paliobagis.
During the past two years as a store staff member, Paliobagis has been dedicated to improving the Country Bookshelf’s online presence. She has been instrumental in creating a store website, a twitter account, and an e-mail list, through which the store markets its many events.
“I definitely want to bring the store into the 21st century,” she said. “And just make it more accessible to our customers.”
Many customers have expressed an interest in buying e-books from the Country Bookshelf, and Paliobagis hopes to eventually make that possible, by adding Google eBooksTM to the store’s site.
Country Bookshelf was founded in 1957 in downtown Bozeman by Polly Lenne, who was the wife of the president of Montana State University. The store’s second owner, Marguerite Kirk, moved it to a more intimate setting on West Main Street, but Mary Jane DiSanti, who purchased the store in 1974, moved it back downtown and added more space and inventory.
DiSanti, who regularly worked in the store seven days a week, decided last year that it was time to slow down and focus on her family. She passed the torch just in time for the new owner to experience the holiday rush.
“It was crazy,” said Paliobagis. “We were extremely busy, and really had a great season.” DiSanti, who worked in the store throughout December, was able to offer Paliobagis words of encouragement. “She told me it was one of the best holidays she’s seen, which is really exciting,” Paliobagis said.
“The store has weathered everything,” she added, pointing out that not only has it survived the emergence of Amazon, but that there is also a Barnes & Noble and a Borders, as well as another indie bookstore in the same town. “So I think what the store has been doing is clearly working,” Paliobagis said. “We just want to continue to be the place that Bozeman loves.”