Greetings independent bookstore addicts, downtown New London visionaries, and meddlesome prying e-peepers. Thank you for your support the past 14 months! Monte Cristo Bookshop has now been open for a full calendar year. What a year it has been. Lessons learned and lessons learned.
First, it is really difficult to sell books. We talk books. We write about books for review publications. We interview authors. We host author events. We donate books. We are all over the internet. Our events get publicity. We have bumper stickers. We do what it takes to get customers into the door.
Second, we sell many books…so I guess all of that work pays off, right? Well, sort of. We have many obligations as a business including rent, utilities, taxes, inventory expense, blazzy-blah. It leaves us left with scraps. We didn’t start a bookstore to make a million dollars after all. To make it on our shoestring budget, to make it 14 months? That’s a real accomplishment we are proud of.
In addition to having a new baby being born to Gina and I in June, 2013 was full of bookstore memories for me. Let’s do a recap.
Moving the store: In June, we moved the entire operation two blocks from our Washington Street location to 38 Green Street. If you had seen the piano we moved down the middle of State Street you would have seen it being pushed by 5 young guys in broad daylight. When we got a greenlight in front of city hall it was hi-fives. A personal favorite memory of mine. Thank you to Jake, Pat, Jason, and other volunteers. We moved the whole shabang in 5 days and in ten days we were a functioning store again. We did very little asking for volunteers. Some people actually felt “out of the loop” because we didn’t ask them?! Let me explain something to clear this up. When we started this adventure we had donations in our fundraiser from the community. We swore that we would never, ever, ask for the public’s assistance again. Our biggest critics during the fundraiser called us out that we had no idea how to run a store and that a bookstore would never work without further donations. Well so far, they are wrong. We want to keep it that way. No further donations of money nor labor. Used book donations on the other hand, heck yeah bring em on!
Meeting incredible authors: There are authors that we meet, and then there are authors that become integral to our operations. We have built personal relationships with many authors that go far beyond a simple book signing-thanks for the check-see ya. Suzanne Palmieri, Barbara Shapiro, Constant Waterman, Allegra di Bonaventura, Gerri Brousseau, Marian Lanouette, Thurman P Banks Jr, James N. Littlefield, Mark Nelson O’Brien, Frances Gilbert, The Kildays, Anna Westbrook. The list goes on and on. We cannot thank them enough for their support but also for their friendship.
Fish Tales, Tugs and Sails Festival: A hot day under the tents. We brought thousands of books onto the Custom House Pier and worked with great childrens authors. Sales were incredible this day and we had a wonderful time. People told us they had never seen so many books at a festival. Funny thing is, I had to explain we weren’t some travelling gypsy booksellers and that we were an actual downtown bookstore.
Schooner Fest: Another Festival! We packed thousands of books under a 20×20 tent on City Pier back in September during the festival. With 9 authors giving readings and interviews throughout the day. Giant tall ships surrounding us. An incredible record in sales. It couldn’t have been any nicer for weather. Allegra di Bonaventura was giving a talk on her history books when, of all things, we were interrupted by revolutionary war re-enactors! A cannon then went off.
Colchester Pumpkins and Pooches Fall Dog Festival: Dogs, dogs, rain, dogs. Author Richard Okun did a booksigning underneath the outside tent, this time in Colchester CT. It was rainy. Like a wet dog. The Lions Club of Colchester ran the event flawlessly. This was the day after Tom Clancy died and wouldn’t you know that we sold many more Clancy titles than actual dog titles. It happens…
Kiwanis Christmas Party: This was probably the highlight of my year. Kiwanis club throw an annual party for ~20 underprivileged kids. They have lunch, shower them with gifts and do a Santa Clause line. I thought, why are they buying these gifts from Amazon and big box stores when those stores don’t do anything else to help? So I decided to make their purchase from Monte Cristo extra special by bringing in the author of “The Cookie Thief”, Frances Gilbert, to read to the kids and sign books at the event. It was like magic. It reminded me of something that had happened during my childhood but that’s for another blog…
Horizon Wings presents: OWLS. This event was really cool. Four live owls were brought into the store courtesy of Horizon Wings raptor rehabilitation clinic. The store was packed!
Thank you thank you thank you thank you all~~ here’s to 14 more months!
And here’s an article in Publishers Weekly where I was quoted.