Have you bought a bookstore? Are you insane?



Probably not, which is good news for the friends and acquaintances of Shannon Burgess and Gail Dickson. On January 1, the two became part owners of Glen Ellyn’s venerable The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn, purchasing what was Just the Bookstore from longtime owner (and prior employee) Jane Stroh.

For those who like to shop for books at a local store rather than Amazon or Barnes & Noble, which may be the only big box bookstore left, all is well. A one-hour New Years Eve conversation with Dickson and Burgess indicates that, with the exception of a name change and an updated website (www.bookstoreofge.com), the comfortable atmosphere and friendly atmosphere that has reigned in the bookstore for almost 60 years – and which flourished under Stroh’s leadership – has not changed.

There will be change – maybe shelves that showcase books better, a wider range of fictional titles, a little more room for book club meetings and storytelling hours – but it will come gradually. . The new owners love the store as much as the customers.

Burgess and Dickson, whose daughters, now students, once worked in the store, firmly believe that a store like The Bookstore of Glen Ellyn should be part of the community fabric.

“We have to (the books and the ideas) be accessible, so that society ultimately has a free exchange of ideas,” Dickson said. “We have to motivate children to read. It is important that families come (and shop together for books).”

The duo could benefit from what industry watchers tend to see as a shift to local buying. “People (are starting to) appreciate the ability to get away from the screen and talk with other people,” Burgess said. “And they understand that there is value in buying locally.”

The purchase took nearly two years, starting with several Dickson-Burgess conversations about their shared vision for the future; a letter to Stroh saying, basically, “If you decide to retire, we would like to talk to you; And one response Stroh laughed at in a later interview was “20 Reasons Not To Buy A Bookstore.”

Stroh was serious. “Owning a retail business is a different world,” she says. “It’s very intensive, a lot of time for very little financial reward.

Ultimately, however, “Gail and Shannon have worked with me (in the store) for most of the past year learning the trade.”

A November article published in Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge and based on an in-depth research summary by Ryan Raffaelli, assistant professor of business administration at Harvard, noted that after “Amazon.com burst onto the scene fledgling retail in 1995 … number of independent bookstores in the United States fell 43% “between 1995 and 2000.

“… But then a funny thing happened … Independent bookstores made an unexpected comeback. Between 2009 and 2015, the American Booksellers Association reported a 35% growth in the number of independent bookstores, passing from 1,651 stores to 2,227. “

Hmm. Maybe not that crazy after all.

• © 2018 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write to him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Read Jim’s Business Owners Blog at www.kendallcom.com.



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