Owner Kathy Mullins pictured at top
Forty minutes up the road from Santa Barbara's dazzling coastline lies the town of Solvang, California. Known as much for its kitschy décor as its delectable pastries, the Danish village is a popular tourist destination.
One store has managed to carve out a loyal fan base by catering not to the tourists, but to locals who love to read. After 39 years of serving the Santa Ynez Valley, owner Kathy Mullins knows a thing or two about books, customer service and marketing.
"It's labor-intensive work," she says. "There are a lot of places where people can buy books so you have to build customer loyalty. It helps to be in a place not too close to the box stores!"
While the lack of chain stores in the area has certainly helped The Book Loft to survive, Kathy's enthusiasm for what she does and the service she gives her customers has helped the store thrive.
"I think all independent book stores pride themselves on having knowledgeable employees," Kathy says. "Our staff has been very stable. We know our customers."
And they reward them.
Known as the "Reader's Advantage" program, locals can give their phone number to book store staff when they make a purchase. For every $100 spent at the store, customers earn a $10 coupon. "It's worked out well," adds Kathy. "For the customers and for us."
The Book Loft has a section for local authors and for books about the Santa Ynez Valley. They have hosted many book signings and launches, and really try to cater to their market. For instance, rather than take advantage of space allowances from publishers, the staff tries to pick and highlight books that they like. Because the store is small, Kathy says they have to be very selective about what they carry. But she and her staff are open to suggestions from customers as well.
"Authors really have to be marketers. You have to work to get your voice heard," she says. "But one of the best ways of publicizing a book is word of mouth. Some people might have other motives for recommending a book so sometimes the only test is to have it and see if it does well."
The Book Loft is near the corner of Alisal on Mission Drive in Solvang. They are open seven days a week, from 9 a.m. While their website isn't updated often, you can find hours and other information: http://www.bookloftsolvang.com/
(And check out this mini review Kathy had in a January 2007 article for The Valley Journal. It mentions a book by a certain Shrinking Violet!)
Sherrie Petersen enjoys writing fiction for children.
Her middle-grade novel, “Secret of Undine,” recently
won 3rd place in the 2009 Pikes Peak Writers Fiction Contest. She lives in Solvang, CA.
Robin and I want to thank The Book Loft for the marvelous work that they do in support of reading and literature for children and young adults! And, we thank our Reader/Reporter Extraordinaire Sherrie Petersen for bringing us this great profile. Sherrie has won a signed copy of Thalia Chaltas' new YA novel entitled Because I Am Furniture, which had just been named to the Summer 2009 Kid's Indie Next List as an Inspired Recommendation for Kids from Indie Booksellers. In addition to winning Thalia's amazing new book, Sherrie is now entered into our raffle to win the $100.00 Indie Bound gift certificate!
If you'd like to get in the drawing as well, link or re-post any of our Field Reporter's indie profiles on your own blog. If you come back and post the link in our comments, your name will be put in our drawing. Or, purchase a book online through one of the Independent Booksellers we profile during the month. That will get your name in the drawing, too.
LET THE FUN BEGIN!