On March 25, Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vermont, held a community discussion about the book business and the future of the bookstore. Customers were invited for wine and cheese and “a short presentation about the current state of the book world and then a conversation about how Northshire can evolve to thrive in this new world.” Owner Chris Morrow told BTW, “Just having the conversation was helpful in itself; it reinforced the bonds between us and our best customers.”
The event drew about 100 customers, including one who drove three hours to attend. “I was humbled by the turnout and the enthusiasm for what we do here,” Morrow said. “People expressed their genuine appreciation for us – what we offer, our booksellers, our role in the community, etc. One woman said we had saved her father from ‘a lifetime of ties’ by having such great booksellers.”
ABA CEO Oren Teicher, who was visiting New England stores with ABA Member Relationship Manager Kaitlin Pitcher, was at the event and told BTW: “It was a very interesting meeting. It’s clear that Northshire’s customers are heavily invested in the future of the store, and in the long-term viability of indie bookstores. Chris Morrow and his staff are to be commended for creating an opportunity for their customers to be heard.”
The discussion was held in response to changes in the marketplace, including the closings of hundreds of Border locations. The invitation stressed Northshire’s plans to serve the area for a long time to come, its commitment to adaptation, and its willingness to hear customers’ suggestions. “We, of course, have our ideas,” Morrow said in the invitation, “but the success of this business has always been predicated on listening to our customers.” Most of the evening was spent addressing customer questions and concerns on topics such as Amazon.com, e-books, library partnerships, and book clubs.
The upbeat tenor of the meeting led Morrow to “realize how important it is to engage our customers in the process of evolving,” he said. “They care. They want to be involved. They appreciated the opportunity to talk about the future of the store in an open forum.”
Eat Sleep Read at Vermont's Northshire Bookstore
Moving forward, Morrow said he intends to increase outreach to customers as the business evolves.
Following the meeting, one customer wrote to tell him: “As you could see from the good turnout, while you are the physical owner of the bookstore, psychologically there are many of us in the town and surrounding area who feel that we own the bookstore with you.”
The big question now, said Morrow, “is how we can parlay that feeling of being vested in the bookstore that was so in evidence that night into the real dollars we will need to thrive in the future.”