As a reader and a self-confessed bibliophile (a person who loves books), I love walking into a library or bookstore and soaking up the books that surround me. As a child, I always thought that when I grew up that I would either be a horse trainer (as I love horses), or a librarian or a bookstore owner. (Just so you know, I re-trained horses as a teenager, but I didn't become a librarian or bookstore owner.)
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a bookstore owner of a ‘bricks and mortar’ store in today’s technological age? Well I have. So I decided to ask one that I know.
Introducing Andrea Kinsmith. Her and her husband Mark, along with their son Jesse, (nearly 9), own Reader’s Emporium in Traralgon, in regional Victoria.
Why did you buy a bookstore?
Four years ago, Mark sought a career change from being a Computer Technician. A local bookstore came up for sale at around the same time, so we decided to put in an offer, and as they say, the rest is history. We didn’t go into the business blind. We did heaps of research, but there is not a lot of information out there about owning a bookshop and all that it entails.
What are some of the hurdles that you have faced?
Do you want a list? It would be pages and pages long. We have had to learn everything; from the ground up: computer systems, publishing companies, distributors and how to deal with them, and so much more. And we keep on learning every day. There is always room for improvement.
What have been some unexpected benefits?
Meeting some really wonderful people. You end up feeling like family. And that’s what we’re about: creating a safe space for people where they feel welcome. Other unexpected benefits have been, getting positive feedback from a customer, a nice comment or a word of encouragement.
What would you say to those that believe that the 'bricks and mortar bookstore' are being taken over by online shopping?
Contrary to that popular belief, people do enjoy coming into a store and buying a book. I think that it's the personal service to find the right book for the right person.
What motivates you? Why do you do what you do?
Mark and I, even before we owned the bookstore, personally believe in, ‘Ideas worth sharing'. So this really sums it up. Everyone has ideas to share. No matter how young or old.
Ideas worth sharing:
1) Build family
2) Build the Readers Emporium Team and
3) Build community
For example, at the recent Summer Night’s Festival, we were wondering what we could use for stands for our books. Jesse suggested boxes. We have plenty, so we that is what we did. It worked perfectly. That is what our philosophy of ‘ideas worth sharing’ is all about. Sharing ideas and information with others.
What goals do you have?
For people to feel valued and to help everyone find the right book for the right person. To provide opportunity for others to learn. If we see a person with a frown, to endeavour to create a connection with them. To hopefully get them smiling. To make sure that they feel welcome.
Andrea, you have a real passion to encourage reading, especially in reluctant readers. What resources do you have available?
We have audio books which can do so much. There are so many benefits. Let’s just say I love audio books.
Click here to learn more about the benefits of audio books.
We also stock the Barrington Stoke Books. These books are not just great stories but they are set out in a unique way so that children who are reluctant readers, for whatever reason, be it dyslexia or other learning problems, find it easier to read.
In fact, I have a story about one mum who came in whose daughter just flat out refused to read. Well she bought an audio book, as well as a Barrington Stoke book. That night, her daughter read the first chapter (of the Barrington Stoke book) out loud, with the normal mistakes a child of her age would make.
The next day she took the book to school, clutching it to herself and she wouldn’t let it go; except to read it aloud to her teacher. This time she read with far less mistakes. Then, when she was visiting her grandmother, she read it through fluently.
I love stories like that.
Another story is a time when a grandmother came in to the shop to buy her grandson a book. We ask questions to try and find out interests (of the prospective reader) as well as reader level. One thing I have come to understand is that “a good reader,” means different things to different people. She said he was a good reader and proceeded to buy a 600 page book for her grandson.
Well, one year later, the boy’s mother and brother came into the store. They told me that he (the grandson) loves the book. It took him the entire year to read through the book, but he loved the story so much, he couldn’t put it down. I wanted to give him a medal for persistence and perseverance!
These stories make it all worth it.
Ok. The personal question. What do you do for fun?
I consider everything I do here at the book store fun. I also enjoy gardening, and cleaning the house. I also love spending time with my husband and playing with my son. I also love meeting new people and looking for new ways to share with people.
So there you have it. Not what you expected? An snapshot as to what it is like to own a bookstore today. To Mark and Andrea it is more than selling books. It’s about valuing people, their family, their team and their community. It is about instilling in others the love of a good book and learning to value the experience, the book and other people. It is about having ideas that are worth sharing and sharing them.
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