Dear Friend of Bookworks,
2012 is the Year of the Dragon, symbolizing dynamic change, big ideas, and good luck. In that spirit we're thrilled to announce the formation of Nantucket Book Partners, a new entity that will operate Bookworks and Mitchell's Book Corner as sister stores.
Early this year, Mary Jennings--who had been running Mitchell's since Mimi Beman retired--stepped down from that role, so ReMain solicited proposals from potential operators. After eighteen (!) years of experience at Bookworks, I could see the way the industry is changing, and I felt that if the two stores simply keep doing what we've done in the past, we won't be here in the future. Thus I jumped at the chance to convey a vision to move forward, and I'm thrilled to announce that we will indeed be working together.
The idea is to retain the best parts of each beloved store while expanding what we offer through less duplication and more cooperation. One web site, one events and offsite program, one point of sale system (sharing customer loyalty, gift card, and inventory information), yet two unique destinations that enhance downtown Nantucket. We plan to launch activities and outreach upstairs at Mitchell's, operate with employee profit-sharing, create a volunteer program, and figure out many other ways to involve the community. Fun stuff!
There were no guarantees that this idea would be chosen by ReMain, but we all put a great deal of effort into the process. I do not know all of the people who put forth proposals but I do know some of them, and they are extremely smart, dedicated book people in their own right. My hope is that we will be able to engage them and everyone who cares about the future of reading and book culture on Nantucket to help in this adventure, and--over time--validate my gut instinct: that by working together we can do so much more than we can in competition. (Of course, if it doesn't pan out, we can always go back to the status quo!) I'm grateful to the fabulous staff at Bookworks; to Wendy Schmidt, Melissa Philbrick, and Russell Carson at ReMain; to the many people who helped me formulate the plan; and to everyone involved in the review process for being willing to re-imagine the shape of bookselling on Nantucket.
This industry is in flux, but it has great potential if we approach it creatively in this special place. Embracing technology and listening to our customers will be the keys to success. We invite everyone to help us invent the next chapter for the stores, so please watch for another email soon with a customer survey, dates for focus groups, and other invitations for feedback. We'll move as quickly as we can to be ready for summer, incorporating as many great ideas as we can possibly fit.
This is all fresh news, and I feel as fired up (and overwhelmed!) as you can imagine. To add another splash of excitement to matters, back in November--before this possibility arose--we embarked with other interested book people, on a journey to launch the first Nantucket Book Festival, which will be happening June 15th-17th. Watch for news about that very soon as well. Busy busy busy but all so good, both for the life of the mind and the life of the island.
Wendy H.[The artwork above is one of a series by Santjes Oomen that has been hanging over my desk throughout the winter. Thank you Santjes for the inspiration.]
*Here is the press release sent out yesterday by ReMain:
ReMain 54 LLC, a part of The Schmidt Family Foundation and owner of the building that is home to Mitchell's Book Corner, is pleased to announce the formation of Nantucket Book Partners by Wendy Hudson, the owner of Bookworks on Broad Street and one of the organizers of Nantucket's first Book Festival this June. Nantucket Book Partners will run both Mitchell's Book Corner and Bookworks as full-service, year-round bookstores.
"At ReMain, we like to incubate new endeavors that inspire and support the next generation in a changing marketplace, and we also want to support downtown's key institutions to help ensure they are in place for the long term," said Wendy Schmidt, founder of ReMain and president of The Schmidt Family Foundation. "Since we purchased Mitchell's in 2008, the bookselling business has seen unprecedented market shifts in the explosive popularity of e-readers and the success of online giants like Amazon.com. Independent booksellers in every market are working overtime to develop sustainable business models for their stores. Here on Nantucket, we are exceptionally fortunate to have two independent bookstores, and now, for them to combine forces, while maintaining their individual characters, is a realistic approach for successfully engaging this industry-wide challenge."
Melissa Philbrick, Executive Director at ReMain described the process of finding Mitchell's new operator following the departure of Mary Jennings, who ran the store for four years after the retirement of Mimi Beman. "We received seven very thoughtful responses to our RFP, and they presented seven unique approaches to running Mitchell's," said Philbrick. "Each applicant loves books and bookstores and is passionate about wanting to see Mitchell's continue to serve the next generation of Nantucketers and visitors to the island."
"Our judgment is that Wendy Hudson has the highest likelihood of success in ensuring that Mitchell's will be a viable independent bookstore for the long term," said Philbrick. "Over the past few years, she has taken a strongly proactive approach to meeting the challenge of the changing market for books and understands the industry dynamics well. We also want to applaud the support given to this new endeavor by Cape Cod Five, a welcome addition to Main Street, and we look forward to this next chapter for Mitchell's Book Corner."
Hudson, who has been owner and operator of Bookworks since 2000, expressed enthusiasm for the future of independent bookselling on the island. "I'm so excited about this opportunity, and I truly believe that collaboration rather than competition is the best course for the island's bookstores," she said. "Mitchell's Book Corner and Bookworks will each retain their own unique personalities, but by functioning cooperatively we'll be able to strengthen both entities and offer even more for the island's readers."