The two booksellers who will receive the American Booksellers Association’s inaugural Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, a new annual honor for booksellers, are Billie Bloebaum of Third Street Books in McMinnville, Oregon, who created Bookstore Romance Day, and Nicole Magistro of The Bookworm of Edwards in Edwards, Colorado, who created the Adopt-a-Reader program.
This new award recognizes and celebrates the achievements of booksellers whose ideas, creativity, and execution have improved their store operations, fostered community relationships, inspired new efficiencies, created a more inclusive environment, saved money, or increased sales. The two winners will receive a full scholarship to Winter Institute 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland, covering up to five nights in the host hotel, reasonable travel costs, and a stipend of $1,000.
Bloebaum received the award for the founding of Bookstore Romance Day; the inaugural event on Saturday, August 17, brought together independent bookstores, readers, and writers to celebrate the romance book genre nationwide with in-store parties, author events and readings, and exclusive merchandise.
Said Bloebaum, “I’m absolutely thrilled to have won, not least because there was no other way I was going to make it to Baltimore for Winter Institute and the stipend will really come in handy and be a nice start to the Bookstore Romance Day 2020 kitty. The main reason, though, that I’m so happy to have won is that I hope that this validation from the ABA and fellow booksellers will encourage more stores to sign up to participate in Bookstore Romance Day for 2020. There were 162 officially participating bookstores for 2019 and I’d love to get to 250 for 2020. If this award encourages even a couple of additional bookstores to join in the festivities, that would be fantastic. It’s a great opportunity to reach out to a readership that has, for too long, felt underserved by independent bookstores. Having my/our efforts recognized in this way is incredibly gratifying and helps me feel that all the work was worth it.”
Bookworm’s Adopt-A-Reader program, which launched in December 2016, matches existing customers with students receiving services through a handful of trusted non-profit organizations. This way, Bookworm readers can build home libraries for local kids; store staff hand-selects the books for every child based on age, reading level, language preference, and personal interests.
“Honestly, I am flattered to be recognized by my peers, who all figure out how to reinvent their bookstores every day,” said Magistro. “We are a creative and enterprising community who feel empowered to meet the needs of those we see while also maintaining strong financial footing. The Bookworm’s Adopt-A-Reader program thrives because we’re able to leverage our passionate readers for the needs of our diverse community.”
Both winners were chosen by an Award Selection Committee organized by ABA comprised of booksellers who reviewed all applications: Sarah Hollenbeck of Women and Children First in Chicago; Paul Yamazaki of City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco; Jenny Cohen of Waucoma Bookstore in Hood River, Oregon; Joan Trygg of Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul, Minnesota; and Suzanna Hermans of Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck, New York.
The judging committee also voted to create an Honorable Mention category. The following booksellers received an Honorable Mention:
- Lane Jacobson, Paulina Springs Books in Sisters, Oregon
- Lauren Savage, The Reading Bug in San Carlos, California
- Alex Neff, A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wisconsin
- Praveen Madan, Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, California
- Veronica Liu, Word Up Community Bookshop in Washington Heights, New York
The award application process was open to all booksellers from ABA member bookstores in good standing. Applications were submitted as essays, videos, or audio recordings, and required booksellers to describe the problem or concern they recognized, the solution they created, the steps they took to implement the solution, and the results of implementing their idea, including supporting data.