North Carolina’s Books Unlimited Creates Separate Children’s Store [4]

Suzanne Harouff, who owns Books Unlimited [6] in historic downtown Franklin, North Carolina, is planning a July 1 opening for Unlimited Books for Kids, her new children's store.

Books Unlimited’s 300-square-foot sister store will be right next door, set inside the neighboring commercial building located at 70 East Main.

Harouff is planning to move all of the children’s books for ages zero to 12 from Books Unlimited’s 250-square-foot children’s area, which resembles a castle, to Unlimited Books for Kids. While the castle will remain, the space within Books Unlimited’s 3,000 square feet will become a bargain room, and much of the store’s new books will be rearranged, she said. The main store will also continue to sell used books, calendars, cards, games, music, journals, and more.

“Probably the main reason I wanted to open a separate children’s store is because I absolutely love the children’s area that I have now,” said Harouff, who has owned Books Unlimited for about 13 years and before that served as store manager for another 13.

At the moment, the closest children’s-only bookstore is in Asheville, an hour and a half away, added Harouff, so there is definitely a market in her area. “The more I thought about the idea of opening my own children’s store, the more excited I got,” she said.

“I’d been trying to figure out how to fix the issues I have with our current children’s section. I have a good amount of space [the equivalent of two storefronts] but I have a very hard time monitoring the entire kids’ area at all times,” she said. “Even with a couple of cameras back there, there are still quite a few blind spots. The section is also very full, so there really is no room for story times or any of the extra activities you’d like to be able to do for kids.”

The front window of Unlimited Books for Kids is covered with 'Coming Soon!' signs.

In Harouff’s new children’s-only bookstore, not only will she have a chance to host these kinds of activities, but she will also be able to expand her title selections and bring in new non-book items.

Harouff is aiming for a July 1 opening and is excited about the prospect of a big Fourth of July weekend, especially since she has already had the chance to do some promotion.

“This past weekend was our town’s first festival of the summer called Taste of Scotland, which was very well attended,” said Harouff. “At this year’s festival I had the children’s logo on a big sign that said ‘Coming Soon.’

“I’ve already put signs up all over the front window at the children’s store. For right now, we’ve also done a lot of word-of-mouth marketing and we will start plugging the new store on our website and on Facebook. We will also have fliers all around town.”

In the near future, Harouff’s stores will be subject to a peer review orchestrated by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA). Several bookstore owners, including SIBA President Jill Hendrix, the owner of Fiction Addiction [7] in Greenville, South Carolina, will visit the store to offer insights and suggestions.

“They will be reviewing everything and showing me the business’ strengths and weaknesses,” Harouff said. “One of the things I want to talk to them about is what they recommend in terms of my marketing for the new store.”

Books Unlimited in Franklin, North Carolina.

Harouff and her staff are all excited to work at the new children’s store. “Every employee that works in our store now wants to go and work in the kids’ store, myself included, so we are going to be rotating,” she said.

“We have several very good children’s authors who are locals who have been published by places like Houghton Mifflin and Peachtree Publishers [in Georgia],” she added. “They are all excited to see the new store and many have said they want to come in and do readings and events.

As an added bonus, back in the main store, where there will be more room, Harouff said she will be able to put some of her new ideas into practice.