[What do typesetters, shepherds, and independent bookstore owners have in common? That's not the setup for a bad joke – just a recognition that many traditional professions are under pressure these days, not the least of them the business of owning and operating your own bookstore. Facing the pressures of heavy competition from chains with deep pockets, a hesitant economy, and – most recently – assault from the likes of Kindle and the iPad, it is perhaps not surprising that membership in the American Booksellers Association has dropped almost 50 percent over the past 10 years (from about 2,700 members in 2000 to about 1,400 today). Over the course of the summer, the Monitor will be checking in with some of America's most beloved neighborhood booksellers to see how they are surviving or – occasionally – even thriving, in difficult times.]
When Ann Lacefield opened An Open Book in 2006, an independent bookstore seemed to make sense in Greeley, Colo., a college town without a bookstore of its own. But after the economic turndown in 2008, Lacefield thought her days in the business might be numbered. This past spring, she faced a $5,000 property tax bill that she simply couldn’t pay – so her customers stepped in, raised the money, and saved their store. “It wasn’t a handout,” said one of Lacefield’s customers. “It was a hand up.” “I think this community owns the bookstore now,” says Lacefield. Lacefield took a few moments to answer questions from Monitor book editor Marjorie Kehe. Here are excerpts of their conversation:
Q. The story of your customers rallying around you to offer financial support is a touching one. But how do you feel when you look to the future?