Hooray for independent bookstores like Book Cellar! It opened in early October in the perfect location, an abandoned space at the corner of Lake Avenue and J Street in quaint downtown Lake Worth.
The proprietors, who own a similar store in Colorado, reviewed my book MURDER IN PALM BEACH: The Homicide That Never Died, and brought it in on consignment. It’s selling.
Last night (Tuesday, Nov. 21), I did a signing in this setting with an appealing, homey atmosphere featuring wood floors, a little nook with a comfy chair and quaint lamp for reading, tables symmetrically arranged, and shelves teeming with fascinating books in a variety of genres.
It went well — for me, at least. Attendees were seated across from me in a cozy arrangement. Two had
Author Bob Brink at Book Cellar
Independents such as Book Cellar are cause for celebration by authors and the reading public alike. Murder in Palm Beach has been in a dozen Barnes and Noble stores in this area, in Iowa and in Hilton Head, S.C., and I am grateful for that. But the large chain outfits can’t imbue their stores with the personality and personal ambiance found in indies.
For some years, indies were in decline. Oren Teicher, head of the New York-based American Booksellers Association, in September told online newspaper The Bulletin in central Oregon that membership in the ABA peaked in the mid-1990s at about 3,000 members. “However,” he added, “the expansion of national bookstore chains in malls throughout America, increasing book sales at superstores such as Walmart, the growth of internet sales and ebooks, and the economic recession of the mid-to late-2000s all impacted the viability of independent bookstores and pushed many out of business.”
Indeed, Newsday affiliate IndyStar reported in July, “Things looked bleak for a while … Borders went bankrupt in 2011. Barnes & Noble closed about 150 stores between 2007 and 2016. Independent bookstores that belong to the American Booksellers Association bottomed out at 1,651 locations in 2009.
“Then, that funny thing started happening. The left-for-dead victim started stirring. Barnes & Noble more or less stopped closing stores. It still has more than 630 locations and has stabilized to the point that an activist investor sees value in angling for the company to go private.
“The number of American Booksellers Association member stores grew by nine in 2010 and 163 in 2011 — and kept going. That number has grown for seven-consecutive years to more than 2,320.”
Six (times 30) degrees of separation
The ABA’s Teicher echoed that assessment in The Bulletin: “It’s an urban legend that everyone believes about independent bookstores being an endangered species. The facts are 180 degrees opposite and have been for some years.” The paper pointed out that ABA membership had increased 25 percent since 2009. The number of storefronts operated by those members were up even more – 40 percent since 2009, totaling 2,321 locations as of May 15. Nationally, book sales for association members have climbed each year since 2012.
The New York Daily News provided this insightful assessment in July: “Books are magic, to borrow the name of one of three new bookstores that recently opened in Brooklyn. Rebecca Fitting, co-owner of the Greenlight Bookstore in Flatbush, explained why, against all odds, bookstores are seeing a resurgence:
The human connection
“‘As the political climate gets increasingly fraught, we need community more than ever … as technology
“There’s a lesson here for all retailers, whether selling merchandise, or food, or services. There’s no substitute for human contact. You can’t build a community of drones.”
If plans by the Book Cellar’s proprietors work out, that human dimension will be enhanced next summer with the addition of a café in its quarters. Stay tuned.