News that Roxanne Coady is selling her independent bookstore, Booksellers, came as a shock to some in town Monday morning when they opened up her 6:30 a.m. email that was entitled,
Roxanne not only started up R. J. Julia 22 years ago, she is R. J. Julia to many of us in town. Yes, we know she has a family and a life outside the store, but her energy, drive, and creativity is omnipresent in the cozy, two-story building stuffed with books, games, cards, and gift items. The store itself is named after her grandmother Juliska, or Julia in English, "to honor her dedication to learning and love, and to symbolize the enormous power of books and how they can change lives," Roxanne has written.
The books sold through R. J. Julia have changed many lives, there is no doubt about it, including mine. And the store itself is a "third place" for many of us in town, not home and not work, but a third place where we can gather with our like-minded friends and meet new friends. And, as she grew the bookstore business, and struggled through challenging times that include constantly changing business models and competition from the internet, Roxanne has become increasingly invested in her work to improve literacy rates, through Read to Grow, which she will continue to do after she finds just the right buyer for the bookstore.
No condolences, thank you very much
She brushes off any effort to offer condolences on her decision to sell the business she has worked so hard to build.
"Well, you know, interestingly enough, it's about the good news," she says. "The store had a really good fourth quarter. And what I see going on is that, with Borders closing, and Barnes & Noble closing stores and focusing on the Nook, I think there is an opportunity to have a renaissance as an independent bookseller to where we were in the '80's."
Yes, Roxanne says, the store has lost sales to online vendors. And, yes, the new owner will have to work hard to pull from a wider geographic area. But, she says, there appears to be a confluence of trends supporting innovative bookstores, including more and more people who appreciate local businesses. "As things become more high tech, there is a need for high touch," she says, fully aware that her bookstore is just that.
A strong dose of civilized humanity
With about 45 employees and booksellers, most of them with strong but gently expressed opinions about the books that inhabit the store, R.J. Julia is a great place to go when in need of a strong dose of civilized humanity that is erudite without being stuffy. The booksellers are always willing to chat, or, after a polite inquiry as to whether they can help you, to just leave you alone to browse the shelf talkers that, in handwriting brimming with personality, quickly explain what certain books are about and why the bookseller liked it.
The once-a-month is a community unto itself, with writers, poets, playwrights, and good old-fashioned story tellers returning time and again. They greet each other like old friends before delivering tales that will stay with you long after the night is over. The store has , where women come from far and near not only to read up on the latest ways to take care of themselves and relax, but also to avail themselves of a massage or a make up lesson.
Roxanne says R. J. Julia's future is inextricably bound up with books, online and traditional, but even more so with readers and writers, and people who love hanging out with readers and writers.
In the future? An Espresso Book Machine and more services for authors who self publish ...
Plans for the store's future include getting an Espresso Book Machine, due in March 1, and providing more services for authors who self publish. Roxanne feels like there are many opportunities, but she says she's not the one to pursue them at this point.
Roxanne has repeatedly expressed frustration with town residents who say they , but add that they shop elsewhere. The Madison community received bad news over the weekend, that the owner of the local hardware store had passed away. And we were glad to hear that employees have been told that .
Still, when it comes up later this year, and there are a few empty storefronts. And, we have dedicated owners like Asiye Kay, , while at the same time helping to throw featuring local businesses. And there are plans to open a new restaurant on Wall Street as well. And .
Making a calculation, seeing opportunity ahead
The new owner of R. J. Julia will be joining those intrepid business leaders who, instead of seeing obstacles, have made a calculation and see opportunity ahead when it comes to this shoreline town's shopping district.
"For R. J. Julia to get on to the next good path, it needs a new steward, additional capital and this is the right time to do it," she says. "We are a community that has supported an independent bookstore like R. J. Julia for a long time, and we hope and expect they will continue to do that. We also have a chance to reinvent it and when you reinvent something, that means new people with new money."
Roxanne says she's not in any rush. "I'd like to put it in the right hands," she says. "We feel lucky to be in a community that supports us, so that we have a store with enough value to be sold."
Just the bookstore, or the bookstore and building?
Coady says she does own the building, and is amenable to offers that might involve buying just the bookstore. Or a potential buyer could buy the bookstore and the building. "Conceivably I could retain the building as a landlord," she said. "But I think most people who might have the resources to buy this would probably like to control their own destiny by owning the building."
Donna Paz Kaufman, founder of the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates, and her husband and partner Mark Kaufman, have been tapped to answer questions about the sale and do an initial screening of candidates who might be interested. They can be reached at 904-277-2664 or by sending an email to DPaz@PazBookBiz.com.
"Donna has gotten a few emails already," Roxanne says. "And I've gotten dozens and dozens of emails in response to my letter. It's really lovely. I feel pretty optimistic we can find the right person."