I’m delighted to have my guest, Linda Pate, here today to chat about the current retail climate of independent booksellers.
Linda is the owner of the store Precious Memories Readings and Collectibles, which is located in Richmond Virginia. Prior to my moving to Atlanta, I had the good fortune of visiting Linda’s store on a few occasions and I fell in love with its quaint homey feel. The store is nestled between homes on a quiet street not far from Richmond’s Fan area.
As more and more bookstores, of all retail sizes, struggle to stay afloat, I find myself particularly concerned about the survival of independent bookstores, which are so vital to our community. I keep asking myself, “What can I do to help?” Since word of mouth is such an effective tool, I thought I’d invite Linda on my blog to talk about what the mean publishing streets are like.
Linda, thank you again for being my guest today. Can you start by telling us a little of the store’s history?
My dream became a reality July, 2004. We began with a grand opening and the bookstore was well received by our community. As time went on, self-published authors began coming to the store seeking assistance with getting their projects published. As I researched the reasons why authors were coming to me I realized why God truly had me open this store. I discovered that other stores would not take the time to assist authors who did not understand the process of writing and publishing their works. It required a lot of time and energy to counsel people, and other stores only wanted to sell books. Precious Memories Bookstore was created to help those in need, providing authors with support and advice on how to publish and sell their products. Soon, authors from all over would come to the store seeking advice. Precious Memories Bookstore has been recognized as a hidden treasure in the state of Virginia and is mentioned in the Hidden Treasure Tour Book. We provide community events and are known for our annual Chocolate Dip-N-Sip, celebrating black history and Valentine’s Day during the month of February. We offer the “Publish Your Dreams Workshop,” which provides self-published authors and aspiring authors with a wealth of information on how to publish and sell your works and many other events that will encourage unity in our community. And the vision goes on and on.
When did your love affair with books begin?
My love affair started as I began learning to read. My mom and dad would insist that I read and would take me to the library on the weekends, after I completed my house chores of course. My parents would insist that I write a book report to ensure that I comprehended what I had read. I was always curious about authors and what made them write about the various stories. I belonged to book clubs and I was always excited about meeting authors.
What have been the biggest challenges that you’ve faced as an independent bookstore owner?
The biggest challenge for Precious Memories has been getting the support of our community to purchase books from us on a regular basis. I have found over the years that we are an after thought once they become dissatisfied with the national stores.
Why do you think books and bookstores are so important to our communities?
We are important to the community because we’re able to provide support, love, and the introduction to new up and coming authors that they may not be aware of from the national stores. We truly care about the community and we offer so much more than your national stores. Also, your tax dollars go to the state to be used within your community. When you purchase from the national stores your tax dollars go to another state and you will never get any benefits from it.
Growing up, who were the authors that inspired you?
Oh, I have so many. Just to name a few, Maya Angelou was one of my favorites, as was, Zora Neale Hurston.
Have there been many changes on the backend dealing with publishing companies? What’s that relationship like?
I would not say changes because the relationship has always been there. Smaller stores do not receive the same discounts as the national stores, depending on the size of your store and the amount of dollars spent during the year you may not have a representative stop by your store to inform you about new products available and you may not even get a new catalog. I believe that this is all necessary to ensure that you will be able to offer good quality products to your community, and to be a successful community store.
On one of my visits to your store I enjoyed an author reading and book signing. Do events such as book signings garner increased sales? How often do you have author events at your store?
At times it can offer increased sales, but it truly depends on the author and the support of the community to come out and purchase the books. Often times, you have to return books to the publisher because of the lack of the support in the community. Some events are very successful. It really depends on the following the author has and how they strategically set up the tours. We try to have at least one event per month.
What would you say is the biggest misconception that people have about community bookstores?
That we are not able to offer the same services as the national stores.
For the person who wants to buy books from your bookstore, but doesn’t live in Richmond, how can they still support you?
We now offer books online. Customers can visit our website www.preciousmemoriesreading.com to make their purchases and we are able to ship all over the world.
Linda, I’m an observer of people and I find we all say and do silly things from time to time. Before you go, could you tell us a funny moment that you had with a customer or as a customer yourself?
During one of our poetry open mic events one of our customers became so excited by the poems being read by one of our handsome poets. As he was reading a love poem she became overwhelmed, sat back in her seat, and broke off the back of the chair, landing on the floor. Once we made sure she was okay the entire store burst out laughing over how she lost control of her emotions. Let’s just say she got a little heated. 🙂