Spotlight on Book Sales: The Dog Ears Book

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The Dog Eared Book has few author events and has no local school partnerships or major ongoing initiatives. But as its seventh anniversary approaches, the Palmyra, NY store represents something rare in today’s American bookstore: it’s simply a bookstore, and a big hit at that.

At the helm is owner Carrie Deming, who opened her store in January 2015 with $ 5,000, which she used to purchase seven apartments of used books from a Connecticut wholesaler. The stock wasn’t great, she jokes, but it was enough to fill her shelves and test the biggest question of all: Could Palmyra, located on the shores of Lake Ontario, support a bookstore?

“We’re in Wayne County, NY, and it’s always been a wilderness of books,” Deming said. Aside from a nearby antique store, the next closest bookstore is a Barnes & Noble 30 miles away. But despite opening in the dead of winter, Deming said she knew within weeks that the store could be successful, thanks to the community’s embrace. “They were madly excited,” she recalls.

Quickly learning, Deming found ways to source quality used books nearby and stuck firmly to a handful of principles, one of which was to keep debt to an absolute minimum, while being open. trying out new ideas. But in 2014, it was hard to come up with new ideas for a small, second-hand independent bookstore. That is, until Deming finds a handful of like-minded booksellers on Facebook and hears about BookExpo. In 2016, she decided to take the trip to New York, and it sparked a new idea.

“When I came back I was like, ‘I don’t know if this community will support new books, but I would love to sell new books,” Deming said. “So I started by opening an account with Baker & Taylor and brought a shelf of books. “

By this time, Deming had a good idea of ​​what customers wanted, having seen strong sales of novels, speculative fiction, young adult and children’s books. Instead of storing titles at the top of the list, she filled the new book shelf with a mix of waiting list titles that were always in demand, as well as personal favorites. It sold quickly and over time established direct accounts with publishers, increasing its stock of new books, including the title list, until it occupied 70% of the 8,000 titles. of the shop.

Deming’s trial and error approach has not always been successful. The author events did not attract a large audience and schools were not interested in partnerships. She was also increasingly concerned with her space. Deming’s owner was getting older and was only offering one-year leases for his storefront on Main Street in the heart of Palmyra. From year to year, she feared more and more that the building would change hands and put her on the sidewalk.

“Whenever a space was put up for sale, I would look at it because, in meeting other booksellers, one of the number one recommendations is to buy your building,” said Deming. “The only way to ensure long-term sustainability is to be able to control this huge mortgage or rent expense. “

In 2019, Deming learned from a customer that another building was about to come to market – a building with a large storefront area occupied by a liquor store about to leave. Before it was listed, she examined the property and contacted the owner, a 92-year-old book lover, who wanted the building to come back to her.

Deming and her husband put their house on the market, bought the building, turned an upstairs apartment into their new home, and started renovating the store. Always keen to keep costs down, she found free high-end accessories for the store at a closing bookstore near New York City, and opened the new location shortly after the pandemic began, in May 2020. With With the change of location and the outbreak of the pandemic, Deming feared sales would decline, but instead the store’s sales doubled and held steady for a year and a half.

“We’re around the corner and we have our own parking lot now,” she said. “And the visibility seems so much better. A ton of people said they didn’t even know we existed at all, and they found us here.

Deming also found a new audience with her BookToks, including one that garnered 1.1 million views, in which she called out customers for returning LGBTQ-themed book covers in her store. His posts made Dog Eared Book an LGBTQ-friendly store and, Deming said, they generated sales as well.

Deming continues to be the store’s only employee, although her mother helps on occasion. Dog Eared Book is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. As she looks to the future, Deming plans to stick with the simple approach that has generated her success: cut costs and focus on a community of dedicated readers.

“I think if anyone is considering opening a small store, the narrative is you have to have a ton of money and billions of employees – and that’s just not true,” Deming said. “A lot of people think, ‘Well, I can’t afford to do that.’ Well, no, not necessarily. I started this store with $ 5,000.

A version of this article appeared in the 10/11/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: Spotlight on Book Sales: The Dog Ears Book


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