By SVP Field Reporter Yat-Yee Chong
If your image of a bookstore involves dark shelves, half-lights, and coffee-colored walls, you’d be surprised by READER'S COVE. This independent bookstore in Fort Collins, Colorado is bright; its Caribbean-inspired blue and green walls decorated with colorful surfboards. To further convince people who walk into the store that this is a fun and friendly place, there is a custom pirate ship in the children’s section.
Owner Charles Kane opened the bookstore 2 ½ years ago when a much beloved independent bookstore closed it doors. “I love Fort Collins, and I felt like we were lacking in a community book store.”
The community bookstore he’s started has quickly become much more than a provider of books. It is an integral part of the community. Take a look at the stats:
Number of book clubs that meet at the store: 14
Number of writers’ groups (including the local SCBWI chapter): 5
Number of book reports submitted during the ‘08 summer reading program: 1700
Number of children who participated: 450
Number of events in the 19 days up till May 11th: 23
These events include story times, book launches, readings, book signings, and Opera 101, an outreach event in collaboration with Opera Fort Collins. This collaboration with other organizations to bring the arts to the people, is yet another example of the Readers Cove’s commitment to the community.
The bookstore has planted itself firmly in Fort Collins, but Charles is equally committed to building his community of employees. When I asked, tongue-in-cheek, if employees have to be English Majors, he laughed. “No, but we did end up with many who are.” And luckily for the store and its patrons, the employees’ eclectic tastes and expertise span the spectrum from YA to literary works to religion studies to reference materials.
Pictured right: Book launch and book signings by local authors, Barbara
Fleming and Malcom McNeil "Images of America: Fort Collins, The Miller Photographs"
Pictured left is authorDenise Vega, (on the very next day) with some of her young readers building paper burritos to celebrate her picture books, "Build a Burrito" and "Grandmother, Have the Angels Come" as part of the events celebrating this year's Fort Collins Reads program.
Charles’s attitude toward his employees is based on his respect for their whole persons. For example, he encourages them to volunteer in non-profit organizations of their choices, knowing that their passions and beliefs span as great a range as their expertise. He builds camaraderie by requesting each employee to regularly report on the books they read as well as post their goals—anything from playing the piano to going to grad school to visiting Nepal-- so they can help one another to reach their goals.
“We actually had a backlash from this,” Charles says. One of his employees wanted to work for a particular company. By using the six-degrees-of-separation theory, they manage to link to someone from this company. “And so we helped him fulfill his goal but we lost a great employee.”
This forward-looking attitude has led Charles to split up management duties among the employees so that whe
n they leave, they’ll have management skills on their resumes.
Despite the difficulties inherent in running a successful independent bookstore: competition from chains and gargantuan online stores in a weak economic climate, Readers Cove stands its ground, continuing its mission to provide books, support local authors and artists, and grow young readers.
From Reader's Cove fan, Maddy, "Ahoy, Matey!"
Yat-Yee Chong lives within 15 minutes of three public libraries and several bookstores. It is the perfect town for her book worm family. Her first novel, for middle graders, won second place in two contests and is being readied for submissions. She discovers that the best way to handle the nail-biting uncertainty of this process is by writing another novel and collecting information for a third. Every once in a while, she writes restaurant reviews, recipes, essays, and short stories. She records her writing journey here.
Heads up, everyone! We are beginning our last week in our month-long celebration of National Independent Bookseller Month. You have just FIVE DAYS left to nominate someone for the coveted SVP crown of Independent Bookseller of the Year. And, just FIVE DAYS left to link your website or blog to one of our indie bookstores profile. In addition to getting the word out and supporting these fabulous bookstores, it puts you smack dab in the running to win a $100.00 Indie Bound gift certificate. Yeah, there's that!