Monday, November 29, 2010

Best Friends, Bookstores, and Beating the Odds

With more and more independent bookstores closing monthly, this article caught my eye instantly when I headed over to the Huffington Post today...and, I'll admit, it made me a little teary:
After years of buying books at Narnia Children's Books in Richmond's Museum District, best friends Jill Stefanovich and Jenesse Evertson have bought the entire store.

"I just couldn't imagine living in Richmond without this store," Stefanovich said.

The two took over the store on Kensington Avenue at North Belmont Avenue this month and have renamed it BBGB.

It will essentially remain the same, though the partners are expanding the store's reach and selection.

Among those changes are a website, a social-media presence and an increased number of titles, particularly from overseas.

They also plan on holding readings, workshops and author events at the store, as well as planning to host sales and other events at temporary locations elsewhere.

"We'd like to get our books out to the places where you wouldn't expect to see them," Stefanovich said.

They also are working on programs to get books to children who don't have access to them, including getting books as gifts for children with special needs through Greater Richmond ARC.

Stefanovich and Evertson took over ownership of the store from Kelly Kyle, who opened the store in 1984. Narnia, which originally opened in Carytown, moved to its current location in 2002.

This year, a retiring Kyle put the store up for sale. Without a buyer, she would have closed the store.

The partners were told in the early part of the summer that Kyle had found a buyer. But on Sept. 21, Stefanovich and Evertson found out that the sale had fallen through.

"We knew we had to do it," Evertson said. "We couldn't lose this store."

Keeping the Narnia name was not an option, the partners said. In 2006, copyright holders of the Narnia series of books tried to stop Kyle from using the name. The dispute was settled -- Kyle was allowed to use the name as long as she owned the store.

The new name BBGB is purposefully cryptic, the partners say.

Officially, the initials stand for Bring Back Great Books, but "it can be anything. We want people to come up with their own interpretation," Stefanovich said.

While the two decided they wanted to buy the store, there was one fairly substantial obstacle: Evertson doesn't live in the U.S.

Evertson had lived in Richmond for several years before her husband was transferred to Europe. She lives in London now, though she plans to eventually return.

The partners talk -- and Evertson attends meetings with designers and lawyers -- via online video chat service Skype.

The separation won't hurt the business, the partners say. In fact, it allows them to focus on what they are good at individually.

"It works because we have different strengths," Evertson said while sitting at the store recently during her first visit since they took over the shop.

Stefanovich, along with two employees who worked at Narnia for years, will run BBGB and create outreach programs. Evertson, who has a doctorate in literacy and a master's degree in children's literature, will work with publishers to unearth new titles and will write the store's blog.

Both are avid readers.

"The real test is going to be what happens when we're together," Evertson said, laughing.

Read the article HERE

You go, Stefanovich and Evertson!

It makes me smile that despite all the changes in the publishing industry, there are still people out there who are fighting to save the indies, to get back to the beauty of hand-selling and recreating the feeling of comfort and homeyness of a good, personally driven bookstore.

Stories like this are wonderful reminders of why the industry--and printed books--will never truly die, as some cynics have claimed in the past.

Gotta love it.

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