The announcement that the Edwardsville Borders store would be closing along with others nationwide, left both Afterwords and the community dismayed. Several customers have deemed the closing of Borders a golden opportunity for our cozy little bookstore to profit above and beyond. I suppose if we were in this business to make loads of money we might share that line of thinking.
When I was given the opportunity to purchase Afterwords Bookstore, I did so because I have had a life-long love affair with books and owning this tiny bookstore is a dream come true. As a hopeless romantic I didn’t give much thought to how much money I would make, however, I did have to curb my enthusiasm long enough to consider if Afterwords was indeed a viable business venture. I wanted to assure our investors that yes, we would sell enough books to pay the rent, utilities, insurance and the like. I took Rebekah Shelton’s model, creating an inviting atmosphere and welcoming customers to browse without pressure to buy- to grab a cup of coffee nearby and settle into a comfy chair and stay a while, and ran with it. We, like all successful independent bookstores, understand that we have to offer our customers more than just books and we strive to be an active and important part of the community. We serve as a gathering place, a Saturday morning tradition–we are our customer’s store.
Never, at any point of deliberation, did I consider Borders as direct competition to Afterwords as our inventory is predominantly used books and the loyal client base that I was fortunate enough to inherit continues to visit our store for a decidedly different experience than that of Borders. A more intimate experience if you will, one where the staff of our store recognizes our customers as our neighbors first and foremost and goes the extra mile by building a relationship with each customer, making note of their favorite authors or titles that they have their heart set on owning. There’s nothing like the genuine appreciation that comes from someone who recognizes that we will do everything in our power to go above and beyond. Our trade for credit program continues to be quite successful with upwards of 300 titles coming in our doors any given week. Loyal customers have always been willing to wait the few extra days required for us to order and receive new titles. Picking up that new book at Borders or Amazon, for that matter, just did not occur to them. Those customers celebrate what Afterwords means to their community and offer their support accordingly. We are very grateful for that consideration!
As the new owner of Afterwords, I often have to pinch myself- to remind myself that this is my job. We are having a blast getting to know each one of you and hope that the little extra touches, complimentary treats, free goodies, one of a kind gifts, loads of giveaway books, Saturday story hour, and pretty gift wrapping free of charge, begin to express how appreciative we are to have such a wonderful and diverse clientele.
There has been much discussion as to why Borders has been forced to close, leaving some 10,000 people without jobs. The consensus seems to be that Amazon and the development of the Kindle and the Nook ultimately destroyed Borders. I will go on record, once again, as saying that I believe there are enough hopeless romantics like myself, true aficionados, who will continue to desire the experience that comes with browsing a bookstore, discussing books with other book lovers, curling up with and getting lost in a great book with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, the feel, scent, experience of reading a book.
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