This summer, Moon Palace Books of Minneapolis MN branched out from their brick-and-mortar location to meet customers in another location: their neighborhood farmer’s market. We spoke with Angela and Jamie Schwesnedl about what insitigated this decision and some of the benefits and drawbacks of operating a pop-up annex to a bookstore.
Someone we met at the Heartland Fall Forum a couple of years ago. A bookstore in White Bear Lake, I think. And we’re farmers market regulars- we love our neighborhood farmers market, so it made a lot of sense to us.
How long have you been doing this?
We started this June. The farmers market approached us about doing activities for kids or a storytime after the library decided they weren’t able anymore. We said we’d love to but that what we’d really like to try is selling books as well and they were up for it.
Are there any other retail type outfits selling wares at the market, or is it all produce and then you guys?
There’s folks who sell hand-made furniture, clothing, jewelry, and some pre-made or non-produce food items like bread, pastries, meat, popsicles,and pickled and fermented vegetables. So, we’re not too out of place.
It looks like you cater your selection to the “groceries” crowd a bit–are you seeing any surprises as far as which books are selling?
We definitely bring a mix of things that are gardening and food related as well as kids stuff. I see it as our chance to reach people who might not walk into a bookstore or who might not think books are for them so I try and have something for everyone so that anybody walking by can look at the shelves and see themselves. It is pretty different week to week what books people touch and are excited about and which books people pass by. And, just like at the store, it’s always amazing how popular any Star Wars related book will be.
Do you host any special events–readings or storytimes–or just let the books speak for themselves?
We have done some readings and activities for kids, and also we usually bring coloring sheets and crayons and markers. I’d love to do an event around a cookbook– maybe next year.
What do you use for POS in a situation like this?
We use a square reader to run credit cards and keep track of inventory by hand. I print out a list of everything we bring and cross off each title as it sells.
Can you talk about the costs and demands on staff that this incurs?
It’s a lot of work! It makes our work week 8 days instead of 7 both in terms of staffing and sales. We haul everything out to the market on a big bike trailer except for the table and tent which the market provides. For a 5 hour market day, there’s prepping and packing the books, plus an hour of hauling and set up, and an hour or so of tear-down, hauling and unpacking. With a small store like ours it’s been hard making sure we have enough books for the store and the market. And if it rains…it’s a mess and no one comes.
Have you seen anyone from the farmers markets in your store at a later time? That is, do you find this an effective way of building awareness about your store and increasing your customer base?
Yes, it’s probably been the most effective advertising we’ve done. People have come in all week looking for things they saw at the market and some of them had never been in our store before. We’d let people who haven’t heard of us know that we’re just four blocks away, and we have some regular customers who are farmers market regulars, so sometimes we bring things that we know they have been planning to come by the store and pick up.
What kinds of comments or reactions do you get from customers at the farmers market who might not expect to see books for sale?
People are generally really excited to see us there – some folks are excited to see cookbooks that have recipes for the things they’re buying at the market, others are excited to pick up a book they need for their book club while they’re picking up their groceries. A lot of people just hit the farmers market because it’s a nice place to hang out and see their friends and neighbors and have breakfast, and they like being able to browse books and talk with us about new titles.
- See more at: http://midwestbooksellers.org/2014/08/moon-palace-books-farmers-market-pop-up-bookstore/#sthash.HwKr4EFE.dpuf