Keen Communications, the Covington, Kentucky-based publisher of imprints Menasha Ridge Press, Wilderness Press, and Clerisy Press, will soon be opening a general bricks-and-mortar bookstore. Owners Richard Hunt and Bob Sehlinger plan to launch their Roebling Point Bookstore this fall, possibly by next month, said Hunt.
Their reasons for opening a general bookstore are many. “We want to serve the people that pass by our doors every day,” said Hunt. “We want to be in the midst of the conversation, to listen to what people say about what they’re reading, what they’re doing, what they’re reading on…”
The bookstore will share the headquarters of Keen Communications, which recently moved to three (haunted) 150-year-old townhouses at the foot of the bridge linking Covington and Cincinnati. The building once served as the offices for the bridge’s builder, John Roebling, who is best know for New York’s Brooklyn Bridge. The bookstore will initially occupy just over 1,000 square feet.
Hunt and Sehlinger envision the Roebling Point Bookstore as a community resource. “We can support the other local independent businesses by offering an additional draw to the area,” said Hunt. “We’ll do great events for local authors. We can let hiking groups meet there before or after their outings, or writers' groups can utilize the same conference table in the evening where we gathered during the day.”
The publisher believes that small, dynamic, and congenial will meet area book-needs best. “We don’t have beaucoup space or cash to be giving the store that expensive wallpaper, otherwise known as excess inventory,” said Hunt. “But perhaps the day is coming when the superstore with 150,000 titles on hand isn’t imperative. Is it more important to the customer to have a nearby store that caters to what they’re looking for and someone welcomes them by name when they come in?...”
The bookstore will base inventory on customer requests. Hunt said, “The cool part is that we’re working with the neighborhood association and the Covington city government groups. We’re going to e-mail/poll the residents and businesses that surround us and ask them what three sections they’d really like see featured.”
Publishing and bookselling are “more alike than different,” he said. The same questions come up for both publisher and bookseller: “How do we get the media to return a phone call or e-mail? How do we get more people reading? How do we convey the excitement we feel about a book or an author to someone who has never heard of him or her or it? How come nobody ever wants to sweep or mop or take out the garbage? Is cash trickle the same as cash flow? How to build repeat business?”
Roebling Point Bookstore held its first off-site event last month. “Ed Begley, Jr. was the keynote speaker at the Farmer's Fair that took place here,” said Hunt. “We sold a good number of books, we made the organizers happy, and we previewed Roebling Point Bookstore to a few hundred people in the ‘hood. Not a bad start.”