MIBA’s first spring meeting of 2015 took place in Omaha, NE. Our hosts were the wonderful staff and owners of The Bookworm, who recently moved to a new, larger location. ABA led us through a thoughtful and informative session, Exploring New Markets. Oren Teicher and Joy Dellanegra Sanger each presented on a wide number of industry trends and ideas that the ABA has gathered from booksellers across the country. Ranging from changes in the national demographic to how best to increase your current customers’ commitment to your store, this session was expertly delivered and will prove useful to all who attended:
- Carla Ketner, Chapters (Seward NE)
- Nancy Simpson-Brice, The Book Vault (Oskaloosa IA)
- Molly Loughlin, The Book Vine (Cherokee, IA)
- Sarah Babgy, Watermark Books (Wichita KS)
- Rebekah Rine, Watermark Books (Wichita KS)
- Sue Najim, Watermark Books (Wichita KS)
- Shirley Wells, Watermark Books (Wichita KS)
- Kathy Magruder, Pageturners (Indianola IA)
- Alice Meyer, Beaverdale Books (Des Moines, IA)
- Sally Wisdom, Beaverdale Books (Des Moines, IA)
- Bob Spear, The Book Barn (Leavenworth KS)
- Barb Spear, The Book Barn (Leavenworth KS)
- CC McClure, Downtown Book & Toy (Jefferson MO)
- Sandra Diamond, Downtown Book & Toy (Jefferson MO)
- Phillip Black, The Bookworm (Omaha NE)
- Ellen Scott, The Bookworm (Omaha NE)
- Beth Black, The Bookworm (Omaha NE)
- Andrea Gunther, The Bookworm (Omaha NE)
- Leslie Huerta, TBA (Lincoln NE)
- Jen Wills-Gereadts, Beagle Books (Park Rapids MN)
- Greg Danz, Zandbroz (Fargo ND)
- Kathy Borkkowski, Wisconsin Historical Society Press (Madison WI)
- Erik Anderson, University of Minnesota Press (Minneapolis MN)
- Kris Kliendeinst, Left Bank Books (St. Louis MO)
- David Enyeart, Common Good Books (St. Paul MN)
Carrie and Robert spoke quickly about MIBA’s upcoming programming, touching on the Heartland Fall Forum, MIBA’s Winter Catalog, and Midwest Connections. We showed a rough draft of our Catalog Testimonials video (still working on it—stay tuned!) and reminded folks to take advantage of the new “saturation mailing” method of catalog distribution. Only 14 cents per piece, and MIBA will still be offering rebates for distribution expenses. It’s the best way we’ve ever had to get the word out about your stores around the holiday season.
After lunch, we transitioned to the bookstore itself and began our “Peer Review” portion of the day. Attending booksellers were given critique forms and each perused the store looking at different elements of their operation. From the lighting to the layout to the inventory, the friendliness of the staff, the colors on the walls, the prominence of the signage and the qualities of the fixtures… The store’s owners then sat through a constructive conversation about what elements need attention and which elements on which they’ve hit the mark. Informative for both the hosts and the attendees, everybody left with great ideas about positive changes they can make to their bookstore.
To close out our day, we were graced by several area authors. Rainbow Rowell led things off with a statement of heartfelt gratitude for the support of independent bookstores, and disclosed a few tantalizing hints about her upcoming publishing schedule. Lucy Sanna read from her forthcoming release, The Cherry Orchard, and Rinker Buck had the audience giggling at his descriptions of an attempt to recreate the Oregon Trail journey. Bethany Hagen charmed us with tales of her adolescent employment woes, and Margaret Lukas confirmed our suspicion Omaha is not only an excellent city for bookselling but also a haven for literary talent.
Though it isn’t ever an official part of the programming, Robert and Carrie can’t travel through our region without stopping at bookstores along the way. On our way home from Omaha, we detoured over to Lincoln and visited the clever and playful Indigo Bridge Bookstore, located in a fantastic corner of a thriving business district in a building with a theater and an ice cream shop directly across the way.
From there we headed north to Seward and checked in with Carla Ketner at Chapters. Carla had attended the Spring Meeting the day before and we got to follow up on a few of the topics touched upon during the meeting. While we were in her store, several local businesspeople came in to discuss community events or promotions Carla has a hand in organizing. Great to see booksellers in the act of community building, and Carla has a great grasp on what it means to be a central fixture in a small town.
Heading north out of Nebraska, we made our way to Book People in Sioux City, Iowa. This may be the only store in MIBA’s region that combines frontlist books and a travel agency! Owner Chriss Camenzend started out as a travel agent, and when the store was put up for sale she saw an opportunity. The businesses don’t cross over beyond the physical space, but they each help each other out during lean times.
Our final stop on this leg of the trip was The Book Vine in Cherokee, Iowa. Mollie Loughlin, who had attended our spring meeting as well, wasn’t in the store when we visited, but that didn’t keep us from browsing the excellent selection of books and gifts. With the store nearly evenly split between books and wine (or wine-related items), it wasn’t hard to come up with a few gift ideas for friends and family. Especially inspiring was the mid-level loft, in which used books shared space with couches and coffee tables for some relaxed pre-purchase perusing.
Carrie and Robert switched things around for our second Spring Meeting, opting instead to visit stores on the way to the event.
Driving southeast out of the Twin Cities, we made our way first to Fair Trade Books, a predominately used shop in Red Wing, Minnesota. Rick and Faye purchased much of their inventory from The Book Cliffs of Wabasha, which closed the year before last. Rick, the store’s primary person-in-charge, has made things work be turning the shop into a thriving site of community good will. Not only does the store host an open mic every Saturday (free to attend, free to perform, and not limited to literary readings), he takes it on himself to produce and distribute a monthly calendar of community events throughout the city. He has become well known among business owners, and recently has been attending city council meetings behind an effort to build a solar garden in Red Wing. With the shop firmly rooted in the community’s mind as a place of social gathering and goodwill, Rick feels he’s ready to step more firmly into the world of frontlist bookselling, devoting more and more of his retail space on new books, though primarily in keeping with his store’s regional identity.
While we were in Viroqua we also swung by the legendary Driftless Books. Operated by Eddy Nix and housed in an old tobacco warehouse, Driftless’ main floor had about as many books as you could fit into a warehouse. “There’s this many more upstairs, and this many again downstairs,” Eddy told us. We found a few treasures among the used inventory, and as we were checking out a conversation about the bookselling industry blossomed (as it often does). Eddy is a man of many ideas, and a firm believer in grassroots activism. We hope to hear more about his thoughts and plans for the shape of the bookselling industry, and were ecstatic that he took us up on our invitation to attend the meeting the following day.
Our meeting in Spring Green took place entirely at Arcadia Books. James, John, Nancy, Katie, and Michelle were kind enough to close the store and café for the day and devote the space to booksellers who came from all over. All told, we saw booksellers from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa.
- Joanne Berg, Mystery to Me (Madison WI)
- Eileen Fescoe, The Book Mouse (Town)
- Amy Mazzariello, The Reader’s Loft (Green Bay WI)
- Julie Crnkovich, Tribeca Gallery Café & Books (Watertown WI)
- Gilette Kempf, An Open Book (Wadena MN)
- Delores LeVau, An Open Book (Wadena MN)
- Beverly Bauer, Redbery Books (Cable WI)
- Maureen Palmer, Redbery Books (Cable WI)
- Jessica Peterson White, Content (Northfield MN)
- Deb Wayman, Fair Isle Shop (Washington Island WI)
- John Christensen, Arcadia Books (Spring Green WI)
- Nance Baenen, Arcadia Books (Spring Green WI)
- Katie McGrath, Arcadia Books (Spring Green WI)
- James Bohnen, Arcadia Books (Spring Green WI)
- Lisa Baudoin, Books & Company (Oconomowoc WI)
- Lisa Nehs, Books & Company (Oconomowoc WI)
- Kate Rattenborg, Dragonfly Books (Decorah IA)
- Sandi Torkildson, A Room of One’s Own (Madison WI)
- Maxwell Gregory, Lake Forest Bookstore (Lake Forest IL)
- Eddy Nix, Driftless Books (Viroqua WI)
- Daniel Goldin, Boswell Books (Milwaukee WI)
- Jen Steele, Boswell Books (Milwaukee WI)
- Robert Laurie, OddInt Media (Fontana WI)
- David Enyeart, Common Good Books (St. Paul MN)
- Kathy Borkowski, Wisconsin Historical Society Press (Madison WI)
To close the day, we had a wonderful time listening to authors ranging from old favorites Michael Perry and Margi Preus to new ones J. Ryan Stradal and James Davita, as well as Alex Gordon, Spike Carlsen, and the tandem writing team of Ron Legro and Avi Lank.