Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Spotlight on Nappanee's Local Bookstore


If you live in a big city or metropolitan area, you no doubt have reasonably good access to the larger chain bookstores. But most of rural America is struggling to maintain long established, privately owned local bookstores. I stopped by our local bookstore to take a look and ask the owner what keeps her going in Nappanee, Indiana.



Light of Grace is locally owned by Jolene Stutzman since 2010, and her business is going strong. The store is located in Coppes Commons, where Nappanee's historic kitchen cabinet factory is in restoration for local businesses to set up shop. Once known as Coppes Brother's Planing Mill, established in 1876, Nappanee became the premiere manufacturer for the kitchen cabinet known as "The Hoosier". Cabinets are still manufactured here, but the original buildings are in disuse until recently when John Mast Construction had a dream for its restoration.



I love the bookstore experience for the "real feel" where I can browse the pages of the books while I sip on a latte. Light of Grace can hold its own for those who expect a books-and-drinks experience. Not only is the next shop over the local bakery, but they also sell specialty coffees at Main Street Cafe. And I'll bet the large bookstore chains can't boast a tea shop in addition to a coffee shop. The Teapot & More offers a small dining nook that will kindle memories of the Victorian age--but you certainly can't get this experience from a Kindle or a Nook!



Jolene tells me she is able to stay solvent in her business by selling gifts in addition to books. She projects about 75% of her business is from gifts while 25% is from book sales. Because Nappanee is in the heart of northern Indiana's Amish country, tourism helps her sales, yet she states it's hard to determine the percentage of her sales to locals versus tourists. However, she believes a large portion of her supporters are local buyers over the age of 40 who still like to buy books the old fashioned way.



Jolene says a large share of her  buyers are the elderly who do not own a computer and still buy a lot of cards to mail to their family and friends. Jolene is what we would say here as either Amish or Conservative, wearing a plain handmade dress and covering, so I did not ask to photo her. She tells me about 50% of her customers are Amish and Mennonites, and thinks they buy more books in general than other people. Many who love to read Amish or Bonnet fiction might believe the Amish actually read these works, but many do not read the fiction written about them. To them, perhaps fiction is stranger than truth.

Jolene tells me she has done two book signings with authors, the most recent was Mesu Andrews. She sold nearly fifty books and felt this was worth her and Mesu's time. She has a nice selection of Christian fiction and nonfiction, but I pre-ordered one she didn't carry. I hope to support her rather than Amazon.com since my to-be-read pile is tall enough to wait until the book arrives.

How do you support your local bookstores to preserve the experience of reading in the nooky space between the stacks until you've kindled your imagination long enough to satisfy your escape?

Comments by owner Jolene Stutzman used by permission.

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Blog post by Anne Love-
Writer of Historical Romance inspired by her family roots. 
Nurse Practitioner by day. 
Wife, mother, writer by night. 
Coffee drinker--any time.
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4 comments:

  1. I love this post! Unfortunately, our bookstore has bit the dirt. :P and the nearest chain is an hour away. So I shop Amazon ... wish it were different.

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  2. RIght. That's the sad story for many a small bookstore.

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  3. I've noticed that the few Christian bookstores in my area have increased their gift inventory over the last few years.

    I'm not surprised about the Amish books - I'm referring to your comment about the Amish not reading the fiction written about them. I'd discovered this fact when I visited Lancaster County, PA a few years back. It appears some Amish are aware of the books, but, do not read them.

    I don't go to bookstores as much as I used to since I purchased my Kindle. Because of lack of time, as well as a great many stores in my area closing, it's just easier for me to press a few buttons and then...BAM, I've got a new book loaded onto my Kindle!!

    ~Cecelia Dowdy~
    http://ceceliadowdy.com/blog/

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  4. Right, it seems the decline of the Mom & Pop type bookstore is somewhat inevitable. It's often only viable with the addition of additional business, such as coffee shop, or gifts, etc.

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