Prelude to Fables: Part 1
Five minutes into my commute home, Andy, my coworker and friend, said "Did you see the social media posts? Better World Books closed today?"
"No, but I'm not surprised. Maybe Jenny and I will start a bookstore," I jokingly responded.
Jenny and I had talked about what we saw missing at the local bookstore. Earlier in February, at a trade show in New York, Jenny tracked what to stock at Soapy Gnome and kept a mental inventory of what we could stock in our imaginary then-non-existent bookstore.
Twenty minutes into my commute, I got a phone call from Jenny.
"Wanna open a bookstore?" asked Jenny.
With scrunched up face and rising inflection trailing into a question, I responded "Uhhhmm nooooo?"
Yet partnering with an entrepreneur and brainstormer, I knew our topic of that evening's conversation. We would discuss opening and running a bookstore. And I looked forward to it.
Jenny and I love Goshen, a vibrant community full of opportunities and people eager to help launch ideas.
Coming home, I walked back my half-hearted no. Jenny and I entered the brainstorm looking to catch lightning. Sparks flew as we talked through what it might look like.
Consolation, Conversation, and Color
The next day, carrying the energy forward, I tracked down Mark Daniels, the former games guru and ball of energy for the now shuttered corporate book store. In his small 2nd floor art studio, crowded with the outward clutter of a creative mind, we talked…I did my best to mostly listen and affirm.
As anyone from Goshen can attest, Mark's passion for games and customer service shined through the corporate bookstore. And the sudden loss of a job surprised him.
I had sought Mark out for a variety of reasons. First to extend emotional support to a dear friend. Second I wanted to learn any information he might have. And third, I love walking up into his studio and spending time amongst the different stages of his creations.
As we talked for an hour or so, Mark mentioned that Brad Weirich had called. Brad, the founding store manager of the now closing bookstore, had left the store 4 years prior. I put a mental pin in that and let the conversation flow.
Over on an easel, Mark talked me through the last stages of a painting he had on an easel: a companion piece to Mark's "Reverence" painting. I love listening to an expert talk passionately about their expertise, and Mark knows colors and character.
Returning to the Mental Pin
Leaving Mark's studio, I returned to the mental pin. Jenny and I needed to know more from Brad.
We invited Brad over for some leftover soup and began the conversation. Brad told us about his phone ringing off the hook, and the ideas rolling through his brain. During the dinner conversation, I sat watching two entrepreneurial brains sparking and generating ideas.
- What would we need to get started?
- How would we differentiate?
- What events could we offer?
- What would we need to defer?
- What is our experience-based estimates on margins?
- With whom have we talked?
- What are our next steps?
- What capital will we need?
- Thoughts on the high-level business structure?
- Where would we like our shop?
- When is the earliest we could open?
All the while, Jenny had grabbed a new notebook to begin capturing ideas and tasks. We laid out a rudimentary plan and the people to talk with.
The truth of the matter, Goshen had lost a beloved cornerstone of the community. Based on our experience, the three of us believed we could form a team that could run a successful independent local bookstore.
But we'd need to find the right mix. I'll leave someone else to continue the tale from their perspective.
Written by Jeremy Friesen