March 11 – Omaha, NE
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:
During our open forum over lunch, the attending booksellers (which came from states as varied as Nebraska, Missouri, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Kansas) asked questions of ABA and MIBA. Carrie provided a quick overview of National Bookstore Day, and Oren assured booksellers who use the Indiebound Webstore platform that the transition to Drupal 7 was well underway. “If you leave here with only one piece of information,” Teicher implored, “it would be to contact your POS providers and make sure you’ll be compliant with the new credit card chip requirements before it goes into affect in October.” If not taken care of prior to the deadline, this issue could result in fines, or worse—loss of sales due to your software’s inability to process credit card purchases.
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.
March 26 – Spring Green, WI
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.
Viroqua, WI is a charming little downtown with a thriving local market. Sharing the façade of this market is Bramble Books, recently purchased by Cheryl Allen. Though she wasn’t in the store as we visited, we got a good sense of the operation. Young Adult titles and cookbooks seemed to be the primary focus.
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.
The morning unfolded about the same as it did in Omaha, with ABA leading us through their excellent education and an open forum over lunch. We also duplicated our “Bookstore Critique” session, with the owners and staff of Arcadia graciously accepting the feedback from fellow booksellers.
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.