The Book House, the new bookstore in town has been a great success and has already built a committed fanbase. And recently, I had the opportunity to interview the owner to gain some insight on her purpose behind the store and her vision for the future.
- Why did you pick Millburn as the place to open your bookstore?
I have been living in town for over 10 years. I wanted to do something in my community, for my community. Not to mention the practical side of working where you live, that definitely played a role as well.
- How do you plan to compete against bigger bookstores, like Barnes and Noble?
I don’t think I compete with big chains, or online retailers. If you know exactly what book you want, and you need it delivered the next day by your front door, or want to grab a book while in a mall, you know where to shop. But if you want to browse in a cozy environment that feels like being home, are not sure what to buy and would like some advise, The Book House is the place. If you want to discuss a book, exchange ideas with other community members, get out of the house but still lounge on a bean bag, with a cup of coffee or tea, and a few good reads, meet people from your town, then come and see me. You can’t do that online, or in a big chain!
- It is difficult to even get people to read in this day and age. How do you think bookstores can help that?
My big thing is this: if you don’t love reading, that’s because you haven’t found the right book for you. I myself didn’t enjoy reading until my teenage years, and used to avoid it as much as possible. Things changed when I picked up a book that a friend was reading. This book started my reading life and I have been a bookworm since (FYI, in case you want to know, it was “Fortune de France” by Robert Merle). I am a strong believer that there are no bad choices when it comes to books. My store offers a chance to browse, pick something from a shelf, put it back if you don’t like it – repeat, until you find something you want to take home. I also find that when people come in a group, they exchange a lot of ideas about what they have read, what they would like to read next, so it’s motivating and inspiring. The simple fact of stepping in a bookstore brings you closer to reading. That’s my theory anyway!
- Your bookstore seems to have a little of every genre, but how do you determine what books you stock?
I started with a generic variety, for the genres I wanted to stock. This was a great learning process, as I haven’t been raised in this country so my exposure to American writers, especially classics, needed some catch up! From there, I constantly study my sales, I listen to my customers and I adapt my shelves to what people are interested in. So it’s a work in progress. I also want to feature books that have a message, promoting empathy, understanding and learning from other’s perspective. -whatever that might be. I invest a lot of time in hand-picking new books, especially for the kids and teenagers’ sections. I think I have come as close to choosing every single book in the store as humanly possible! I am very wary of not selecting books for me, but for my community. Still, I couldn’t resist featuring “Le petit prince” in French. Some things are just too hard to let go of . . .
- Do you have any previous experience in the book industry?
I am an author of chapter books for kids, so over the years, I spent a fair amount of time visiting bookstores, promoting my work, and studying the industry from a writer’s perspective. But that’s about it.
- You also have an art gallery in your bookstore. What is the purpose of that?
The purpose of the gallery is to put the spotlight on local talents. We have a lot of amazing gifted people in our town. The gallery is giving them a voice, a platform to showcase their work. The project is in its infancy, but it’s growing.
- What do you hope your bookstore becomes in the future?
I wish for The Book House to become a community hub, where people gather and exchange ideas, meet to discover new points of view, or just hang out and relax. We live in a contentious world, where there is little tolerance for opinions that differ from our own. I want the store to be a safe space where everyone comes because their opinions, values, ideas will be respected. we don’t have to agree, but we must listen, understand, learn, and never fear to do so. Oh, and getting everyone in town to buy books from me. That would be pretty cool as well . . .