Who Wants to Own a Book Store?

Dear Reader,
   Welcome to the 2016 Edition of the Laurel Book Store State of the Store Address. First off, Happy Anniversary to us! It's our second anniversary in downtown and our 15th in Oakland.
   What a roller coaster ride it's been!
   In these 15 years, I have met the most amazing customers and authors, watched kids grow up, and mourned the passing of neighbors. We've welcomed people to Oakland, given directions to restaurants, landmarks, and government buildings, and said goodbye to folks leaving for other parts of the country.
   Since moving to the new location at 14th and Broadway, we've been part of a vibrant and growing downtown business community. We created Downtown Business Mondays and Government Tuesdays in hopes of connecting with the 100,000-plus workers with offices within a mile of the store, and as a way of giving back to regular customers and our local government workers.
   Just as we did in the Laurel, we work with schools and libraries to get books for their libraries, conduct book fairs, and donate to their fundraisers. (Tell us where your kids go to school when you come in so we know if we're donating appropriately!)
   We are proud of our knowledgeable and creative staff who love to recommend books.  They've kept things fresh and fun and for that I can't be more thankful.

   People love the store, and the most frequent question I get from customers in this age of e-books and mega-vendors is "are you doing alright?"
   That's a complicated question to answer.
   The closing of
Modern Times in SF is a terrible blow to Bay Area bookselling and the resurgence of the indie. It reminds me that even long-standing stores are not immune. I hope they can find a solution and stay open, but I know well how difficult that can be.
   I don't regret moving to this beautiful, centrally located spot. I'm honored to join the five other bookstores downtown! I love being in the busy, diverse downtown area. We meet tourists, residents, office dwellers, and more each day. There are very few vacant storefronts around us now.
   We are able to host larger events now that we're at a BART station and near a central bus hub. It's easy to get here, there's a door on each side of the building, and it's an inviting spot. Besides being centrally located, we have room to seat at least 50 and have had a few events with more than 80 guests. I love having authors in to speak, and I know that those who come are treated to a good time.
   We've also hosted a wedding rehearsal dinner (okay it was mine, but we did it), a memorial, a yodeling cowgirl concert, illustrator intensives, mystery panels, art classes, lunchtime gatherings, a haiku competition, spoken word performances, high school and college student readings, book festival panels, and much, much more.
   I say often that I love my job, and it's true.

   At the same time, it's not all roses, although there is one growing outside the Broadway door. We've had a few street person issues, those who drive here sometimes find parking to be a pain, and every now and then there's a protest on the Plaza that keeps people from coming to the area. Sundays and holidays can be deserted.
   It's also expensive to do business here. The minimum wage went up just after we opened, and while I'm all for it, a 20% jump wasn't in the initial projections. Occupancy costs are high, and though the City offered us a good rate on the lease, it's still a huge budget item.  I still have debt from the initial expenses of settling here, and will be servicing that for a while. Cash flow can be tricky and once we get behind on one front, it's tough to catch up and get ahead.   
   Every day, customers come in and ask how long we've been here, saying that they walk by all the time and never noticed the store. (I know, go figure.) Getting attention isn't easy.   And the book business is a tricky one right now, with online companies devaluing books and the work of authors, and supporting a perception that literature isn't worth the cover price.

            These are the barriers we face in the current economy.
The good news is that we're on an upward trajectory, albeit a slow one. We are showing an increase over last year, overall, based on the number of transactions per day and the dollars per transaction. We've made some great connections with businesses and organizations, and we're exploring more ways to utilize the space on slower days. (Need a venue for your knitting group? Call us.) We've been showcasing local artists on our walls each month and that's brought us attention.    
So we're doing okay, with the intent of doing well. We're always working to get more people in the store, because once they're here we can always find something that they need. We now have 2 years of data to help us make smart buying decisions. The numbers show that the store is on the right track and we have a wonderful, stable staff. Many of our events are well attended, and we're working on our social media presence to help the marketing effort.

   We could be doing more high profile events and more outreach, and creating new partnerships. We could concentrate on the children's market in a bigger way with the schools all around us. Corporate sales are a possibility. Midday programs with senior centers who bring folks in are possible.
   We could have a much more coordinated and robust online presence. Do you know that you can shop on our website 24/7? Have books sent to you if you don't want to drive here? We sell ebooks too. People are often surprised when we let them know that.
   We could be hosting more book clubs and kids' reading times, coordinating marketing with other businesses, reaching out more to downtown residents, creating gift baskets for office gifts, book of the month clubs, and the idea list goes on and on.
   The potential for growth is great. And I am looking for a business partner to help take Laurel Book Store into the future-someone with ideas and the energy to make ideas reality. I hear so often "I'd love to own a book store..." and wonder whether anyone is serious. I've been the sole owner of this wonderful store for 15 years and I am ready to have someone join me to make it even more amazing-to take it to the next level. If you're interested, please contact me directly.

   Besides our two-year and 15-year anniversaries, it's my birthday today. What I want more than anything is to have a successful, sustainable, growing book store serving Oakland and beyond. I want to continue hearing people say "I'm glad you're here," which is a powerful drug in one's work life. And I want to keep putting books into the hands of readers, and working with authors, teachers, librarians, and readers to build community together.
Who's with me?
   And more important, what book can I get you today?   

Happy reading! And thank you for your continued support. It is my honor to be your bookseller.


Book Club pick for October 20   
To join, read the book and show up. We would love to have you with us.

Next meeting is Thursday,
October 20, 6:15.

The Race for Paris  by Meg Waite Clayton Normandy, 1944. To cover the fighting in France, Jane, a reporter for the Nashville Banner, and Liv, an Associated Press photographer, have endured enormous danger and frustrating obstacles-including strict military regulations limiting what women correspondents can. Even so, Liv wants more.
Encouraged by her husband, the editor of a New York newspaper, she's determined to be the first photographer to reach Paris with the Allies, and capture its freedom from the Nazis.
However, her Commanding Officer has other ideas about the role of women in the press corps. To fulfill her ambitions, Liv must go AWOL. She persuades Jane to join her, and the two women find a guardian angel in Fletcher, a British military photographer who reluctantly agrees to escort them. As they race for Paris across the perilous French countryside, Liv, Jane, and Fletcher forge an indelible emotional bond that will transform them and reverberate long after the war is over.
Based on daring, real-life female reporters on the front lines of history like Margaret Bourke-White, Lee Miller, and Martha Gellhorn-and with cameos by other famous faces of the time-The Race for Paris is an absorbing, atmospheric saga full of drama, adventure, and passion. Combining riveting storytelling with expert literary craftsmanship and thorough research, Meg Waite Clayton crafts a compelling, resonant read.

November   The Sympathizer
December   Dogs of Christmas


Wednesday, October 26
Sarah Schulman and her new book
Conflict is Not Abuse

Saturday, October 29
Laurin Mayeno with her picture book about being who you are
One of a Kind Like Me

Quick Links to Places We Like 
Paws & Claws                               All Hands Art
NCLR                                             Cafe Santana
Emily Doskow, Esq                  ReadKiddoRead Longitude
Laurel Book Store | laurelbookstore@att.net  | 510-452-9232 | laurelbookstore.com
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