America’s smallest indies

What goes on behind the scenes at small bookstores? I mean, besides the silent weeping and fantasies about robbing the bank next door?

Many small bookstore owners welcome the opportunities presented through increased online communication. Mary Swanson has owned the Bookloft in remote Enterprise, Ore., for 30 years, and she employs many of the techniques described by Ineson. She keeps a diverse array of products, changes displays, and mixes new and used books throughout her store, which also has a café and locally made arts and crafts for sale—all in 1,000 sq. ft. of space. Though Swanson consumes industry news and information, she has only been to BookExpo twice. “Winter Institute always sounds appealing,” she said. “But I live in a mountain valley, so getting out in January or February isn’t possible.”

Through choice or adversity, many small bookstore owners also have to embrace a willingness to consider drastic changes. After 18 years in the same location, Diana Portwood of Bob’s Beach Books in the coastal town of Lincoln City, Ore., recently moved her store, downsizing to 1,200 sq. ft. while also making it Americans with Disabilities Act compliant. Working five days per week in the store and two days handling paperwork and ordering from home, Portwood said that the move was challenging but worth it. “I pay myself a salary,” she said.

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