Indie Bookseller Resurgence

By Leia Larsen Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Interestingly, amid the popularity of kindles, e-readers and mega bookstore chains, there has also been a resurgence in small indie book sellers. According to figures from the American Booksellers Association, book sales at independent shops grew by just over 10 percent compared to the previous year. In addition, new ABA-member bookstores have opened every year for the past seven years.

Standard-Examiner, Ogden, Utah

A new bookstore is coming to Ogden's 25th Street this summer, and in the age of e-readers and big-box retailers, its owner, Marcy Taylor Rizzi, isn't afraid.

The new shop, "Booked on 25th" will open its doors at 147 25th Street in July. Taylor Rizzi said while her shop has already generated a lot of buzz, people constantly ask her why she's taking the plunge. Brick-and-mortar bookstores, after all, have been called "doomed," "endangered and "in decline." But Taylor Rizzi said while she loves books, people are her passion -- they'll be the focus of her store and the reason her business thrives.

"I think people want to feel a sense of community, and bookstores offer that. They bring about all sorts of different people in one location," she said.

And while one of the city's oldest independent bookstores, Bookateria, announced plans to close last spring, Taylor Rizzi said a locally owned bookshop can still find its place in Ogden.

"What I'm offering is different," she said. "It's not just a used bookstore, it's going to be a new and used bookstore. But more than that, it's a gathering spot."

Taylor Rizzi plans to host book readings, poetry readings, short story readings, book clubs and book signings in her 1,080 square-foot space. She'll host events during art strolls and book releases. She'll sell books for English, literature and philosophy courses at Weber State University. She'll include cozy reading nooks in her store, encouraging bibliophiles to linger.

"I want all of Ogden's literary community, intellectual community and people who just love books to have a place to go," she said.

Thanks to the drive of indie entrepreneurs throughout the nation, like Taylor Rizzi, small bookstores are on the rebound.

Book sales at independent shops grew by just over 10 percent compared to the previous year, according to figures from the American Booksellers Association. New ABA-member bookstores have opened every year for the past seven years. In 2016, the ABA counted 1,775 companies in 2,311 locations, compared to about 1,400 companies in 1,651 locations back in 2009.

"In addition, nationally in the U.S., new stores are opening, established stores are finding new owners, and a new generation is coming into the business as both owner/managers and frontline booksellers," said Dan Cullen, senior strategy officer for the ABA, in an email. "All of this is a result of the fact that indie booksellers remain a resilient and entrepreneurial group."

And Taylor Rizzi's has done her market research. She started with reaching out to Weber State University's Small Business Development Center and working with them to write a business plan. From there, she's paged indie bookstore owners throughout the nation for ideas. She also found a mentor in Anne Holman, partner at the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City. Holman said small book shops offer lots of things that big box stores and online retailers can't.

"Amazon can recommend books to you but it's based on a formula. They don't know you," she said. "A local bookseller knows your name and your kids' names, knows your interests. If you need a book right away, they can probably hop in the car and get it to you ... just as quickly as Amazon can."

Holman has worked as a bookseller for 15 years. She said Ogden is ready for a shop like Booked on 25th.

"I think it's going to be fabulous. It's going to add a whole new level of interest of what's going on there," she said.

"People are figuring out it's a lovely place to be, in an independent bookstore where you run into people you know, or maybe you run into people you don't know, but find you have a lot in common with them."

Taylor Rizzi's location -- and the foot traffic -- on 25th Street will certainly help.

"If you've lived in Ogden at any point in your life, you know 25th street is the place to be," she said. "The history of Ogden -- it was a wild town. I'm sure plenty of people got 'booked' on 25th Street."

Taylor Rizzi wrapped up painting her new space this week and is now sprucing up the floors to prepare for the July opening.

She stays busy ordering new books, organizing donated books and reaching out to the community for more ideas. She remains convinced paper books, sold off shelves in small towns everywhere, will always have their place.

"You can't let fear stop you, you just can't," she said. "Everybody was writing off (bookstores) as something that would die out. I don't see it ever happening. There's something about the physical touch, touching something and reading it, that people are thirsty for again."

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