After five years as booksellers, buyers, and managers, Allison Best-Teague and Jo Gilley have added a new title to their resumes: bookstore owners.
Best-Teague and Gilley took over Waynesville, North Carolina's Blue Ridge Books when majority owner Robert Baggett retired. “Allison and I were very gratified when we became the owners in June because our customers were full of good wishes,” said Gilley. “They seem very happy that we have this opportunity.”
Gilley had been the manager of Blue Ridge since the store opened in 2007. Best-Teague joined the store in late 2009, when Baggett bought nearby Osondu Booksellers, where Best-Teague was the children's buyer, events coordinator, and a general bookseller. When Baggett merged the two businesses and closed the Osondu location early this year, several staff members joined Blue Ridge, which, Best-Teague said, "allowed for the combination of the strengths of both stores." (Former Osondu owner Margaret Osondu, who had been operations director for both stores, left the company this spring.)
“Our first purchase as new owners was a suggestion box,” said Gilley. “We plan to listen to what the customers want and do our best to run a business that meets the needs of the community.” That means continuing to build the store's strong Southern fiction and nonfiction sections and maintaining the welcoming atmosphere of the store cafe. “Our goal is to have something for everyone who enjoys reading,” Gilley added.
The new owners have found that their different areas of interest are an asset. “Jo and I are fortunate that we have different skills and taste in books,” said Best-Teague, who will continue to oversee the children's department. “It allows us to feel more confident about all aspects of the business.”
“Even though Allison and I have divided the responsibilities,” Gilley said, “we talk over all the decisions about what new things to try and what we need to let go.”