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Roxanne Coady Seeks New Owner For R.J. Julia Booksellers

After 22 years of building and running the bookstore, Coady seeking a new owner. "The store will not be closed," she says.

 

Roxanne Coady announced in an email letter early Monday morning that she is looking for a new owner of , the bookstore she founded 22 years ago, at 768 Boston Post Road in Madison, CT, in the heart of the shoreline town's retail district.

A full copy of the letter is below.

"Donna Paz Kaufman, founder of the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates will handle the process for us. She is a highly respected educator, consultant and friend of independent bookselling who has known the store for years and knows the industry inside out. Donna, along with her husband and partner Mark Kaufman, will insure that we do this right--for our staff, our readers, our community and our industry," Coady says in the letter.

Store has local, regional, and national reputation

The store is known locally, regionally, and nationally for its innovative approach to attracting customers, including specific guidance to local book clubs, selling electronic books, attracting nationally known authors for talks, and sponsoring events like grandparent's teas and Ladies Night Out. R. J. Julia has successfully positioned itself as a "third place" in the area, where people go to buy books, talk about books, grab a bite to eat at the R.J. Cafe, and meet like-minded people in the community.

Donna Paz Kaufman, founder of the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates, said Coady's decision to find a buyer for the store presents an ideal opportunity for someone who might be interested in a career transition.

"That's what we've seen with the transition of other community anchors like this," she said. "Somebody in the community, or somebody who has visited the community seeks the opportunity of owning a business that feeds the head and feeds the heart. This is a bookstore like that. For R. J. Julia, one of its greatest assets is that somebody who buys this store will not only be able to carry on the legacy locally, but it has a national reputation as well. Publishers are very much tuned in to the market there in Madison, so they are very committed to making sure they support the store."

Timing of the sale not clear at this point

Paz Kaufman said "it will be fascinating to see who rethinks their lives and what they have been doing for a living." She added that the timing of the sale is not clear at this point.

"That process will unfold," she said. "Nobody wants to push the river in these situations. They employ a lot of people, the store means a lot to the community. Roxanne really wants to find a good fit. In terms of her next chapter, she can step that up whenever the right person surfaces. It's exciting for everybody. For the staff, it will be a transition, and they will have time to get ready for that."

Mark Kaufman of Paz & Associates said that their company will not be acting as brokers, but rather that they will be helping Coady sort through people who express an interest, in an effort to find the best fit for the store.

"It's like giving her baby up for adoption"

"We're not brokers," he said. "Donna and Roxanne go back even longer than Donna and I do. Donna started this business 20 years ago. We are dedicated to independent bookselling and so we offer a variety of services. We've had a long-standing relationship with Roxanne and know her well, so when she decided to move on to other things, she asked us if we would be interested in, let's see, probably the best way to say it is, qualifying prospective owners. Running a store is a full-time endeavor. Her feeling is that we would be in a good position to help her find the best person for the store."

Kaufman said finding a good fit is important for Coady.

"This is her baby. It's like giving her baby up for adoption. We want to make sure we find a suitably qualified candidate," he said.

Kaufman said he and Paz will be fielding inquiries and talking with people about their background, their interests and their vision for the store's future. 

"We have some basic information from Roxanne about the operation itself that we could pass along and from that point, we will give her a list of people. Next steps might include asking people to sign a non-disclosure agreement so that she could share financials," he said. "And from there, the deal will be between them, we do not work on commission."

Kaufmann said he and Paz will try to impress upon potential buyers "the nature of what it means to own an independent bookstore."

"You have to understand the nature of the business"

"We will try to get a sense of how realistic people are about owning the store," he said. He said Paz & Associates does workshop retreats twice a year called "Owning A Bookstores, The Business Essentials."

"We talk with people about why you own a store," he said. "We ask, 'how many of you think you will have more time to read?' If you are going to have a retail store, you have to understand the nature of the business. That's pretty much the information we want to impart, how many different hats someone would have to wear, the expertise you need. We want to know, what are your strengths, what are your weaknesses?"

Kaufman said it is not unusual for independent bookstore owners to proceed this way when it comes to looking for an owner, and that Paz & Associates currently is doing the same thing for a bookstore in Illinois and another in South Carolina.

Searching for the right direction in the era of online competition

Coady has been struggling for a while to figure out the best direction for the store, in an era when so many people rely on online booksellers instead of their local bookstore. In early 2011, she sent out an email to readers soliciting ideas for the future of the bookstore.

"I can't be silly about how people are going to go about doing this ... people are going to do what they are going to do," she told a group gathered at the store. "Either we're doing what you need and are willing to pay for it one or the other, or we should go away ... We've got 45 employees who have got to get paid ... Should we make the store smaller? Change it? What should we do to figure it out? You just keep us posted and we'll keep you posted."

News of Coady's desire to find a new owner sparked some chatter on Facebook Monday morning.

"Roxanne has inspired many on the shoreline to follow their dreams. I wish them much luck and prosperity. RJ Julia's is an amazing place," said Nikki Eterginio-Rasmussen, a comment that reflected the views of many of the store's customers. 

---

[Email sent out Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, 6:33 a.m.]

Dear Reader,  

 

Twenty-two years ago, 8 months pregnant with Edward, I gave birth to R.J. Julia Booksellers and one month later, my son Edward. These have been extraordinary years--filled with the joy of raising a child; the delight of developing a bookstore, the pleasure of working with hundreds of dedicated staff; with the honor of introducing thousands of writers to readers and the thrill of helping customers find just the right book. But ultimately, the most satisfying work has been to create a place that has become the center of our community and an environment that nourishes all that the joy of reading can bring to our lives.

 

Edward will graduate from Kenyon College in May and now belongs to the world--Kevin and I hope that we have raised him to be kind, compassionate, independent, thoughtful, hardworking, ready to be productive and make a difference. We think it's also time for R.J. Julia to grow in new ways, in the care of new hands that will guide the store to take its proper place in a new world; a changing of the guard in a time of change.

 

Rest assured: This is not an end for R.J. Julia, but simply a new beginning. The store will not close. We are determined to see R.J. Julia survive and thrive into the future. And there is good reason to think it can. The last few months have shown a resurgence of support and sales for independents across the country. There is even talk of this being the beginning of a renaissance for independent bookselling.

 

I concur with that thinking and believe that R.J. Julia and our community deserve to take advantage of this renaissance. To do this successfully, the store needs a new steward. Two venerable bookstores have seamlessly been transferred to new owners over the last couple of years--Politics & Prose in Washington, DC and Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA. The new owners are innovating, investing and reinventing--it is extraordinarily exciting to witness. I have spent many hours talking with the new and old owners and feel confident that we can accomplish as seamless a transfer at R.J. Julia.

 

So we will begin the process. I am committed to being patient in order to find the right person and to do this the right way. The first and foremost priority is putting this big, cherished baby we call R.J. Julia into the right hands. All that has been accomplished in these years is now part of R.J. Julia's DNA--all the staff have left their mark, all the authors have left their inspiration. And all conversations, joy, sadness and ideas that you have left-- it's all still here.

 

When we opened in 1990 independent booksellers were finishing a decade of prosperity and vibrancy. The next decade brought the onslaught of the chains opening hundreds of stores and the 800 pound gorilla, Amazon, began its ascent. Thousands of independent bookstores closed yet we remained vibrant and committed to our purpose. We were able to do this because of the staff who worked here over these years, because of the support of publishers and authors, and most of all because of all of you who have been loyal in your support of us and passionately committed to our existence. I believe words will continue to matter; reading, in whatever form, will remain vital; and our desire to connect will endure. These qualities have been and will continue to be the ingredients of R.J. Julia's future success.

 

What will I do next? Over these years my work at Read to Grow educated me about the dire condition of low literacy rates in our country and the devastating impact this has on our children and their families. I intend to commit my time to reversing this trend--no sense having bookstores if we are not developing readers--no sense fixing our education system if we are sending children in who are not equipped to learn. This feels like an ideal next step in my career. What can you do? Continue your enthusiastic and loyal support of R.J. Julia, and think about whether you or someone you know could be the ideal person to take R.J. Julia into the future.

 

Donna Paz Kaufman, founder of the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates will handle the process for us. She is a highly respected educator, consultant and friend of independent bookselling who has known the store for years and knows the industry inside out. Donna, along with her husband and partner Mark Kaufman, will insure that we do this right--for our staff, our readers, our community and our industry. They are the ones to contact with questions, suggestions or interest in additional information, and can be reached at 904-277-2664 or by sending an email to DPaz@PazBookBiz.com.

 

We will have plenty of time to talk about all this, tell stories and remember our favorite author, event or book. But in the meantime, you have my personal commitment that I and the staff at R.J. Julia will do what we have done for 22 years--we will work hard to be a place where words matter, where writer meets reader and where we are committed to putting the right book in the right hand. All of you got us here, and all of us can ensure that this place called R.J. Julia will continue to thrive, enriching the lives of our community and our families with that indescribable joy of reading.

 

Yes, as always, see you in the store,

Roxanne

Andrew Kaplan February 06, 2012 at 02:04 PM
I have written before on the importance of shopping locally as a means to preserve the charm of Madison,http://madison-ct.patch.com/blog_posts/a-different-new-years-resolution-shop-locally-77019ea1 Downtown Madison gains much of its charm from Roxanne's wonderful book store. We may lose Roxanne but we cannot lose "R.J. Julia".
Pem McNerney (Editor) February 06, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I agree. R. J. Julia is generally considered one of the four pillars of the downtown shopping area, along with the library, the Post Office, and the movie theater. If want the charm, we have to support it. Do you want to thank Roxanne for 22 years of hard work that gave us this bookstore? Go out today and buy a book at R. J. Julia.
eileen banisch February 06, 2012 at 03:31 PM
RJ Julia, under Roxanne's leadership, has helped put Madison on the map. We were there yesterday with out of town guests who couldn't get over the fact that Madison was blessed with such a wonderful bookstore. Good luck to Roxanne with future endeavors, and good luck to whomever buys it...they'll have big shoes to fill!
Ed Brunt February 06, 2012 at 03:43 PM
I feel guilty for saying this because I love R.J. Julia, but I received a Kindle last Christmas and don't think I could give it up now. I still buy some print books, but probably only one for every ten e-books. If the future business model for R.J.'s is to encourage people to go backwards and put down their convenient devices, then I'm sorry, but it's destined for failure. The challenge will be to re-invent the local bookstore so that it provides something that you can't get elsewhere. R.J. Julia's does a lot of that now with the cafe' and special events but I imagine that it is not quite enough to keep the lights on. Hopefully the new owner can find that niche.
Pem McNerney (Editor) February 06, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Ed, get rid of the Kindle and get an e-reader that takes Google books. It's every bit as convenient! "Google eBooks is compatible with most web browsers, Android phones, iPhone, iPad, and many eReaders." You can even read it on that iPhone of yours you love so much! =) http://www.rjjulia.com/gbook/help/about RJ Julia isn't encouraging people to go backwards, it's just asking people not to forsake it as it moves forward, and to not patronize a mega-corporation that wants to put the bricks and mortar retailers--the ones that employ 45 local employees like RJ Julia, and pays taxes like RJ Julia (and/or RJ Julia's landlord)--out of business. What does Amazon.com put back into your community? It takes money and gives nothing back in return, as far as I can tell. The way that company has been acting lately (with their amazon app that tried to suck business away from local retailers over the holidays), they remind me of that guy Potter in It's a Wonderful Life. Shop Amazon for the stuff you can't find locally, but if you can find it locally, but it locally.
Pem McNerney (Editor) February 06, 2012 at 05:51 PM
We were just there over the weekend too, thinking the same thing. We left with a bag of books we enjoyed the whole weekend.
Phil February 06, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Our Corrupt PD has but Madison on the map...not a bookstore
Pem McNerney (Editor) February 06, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Here are all the devices that you can read RJ Julia books on: My Android Smartphone/Tablet My iPhone/iPad My Nook My Sony Reader Other Dedicated eReader (Kobo, etc.) My Computer That isn't exactly looking readers into the past ...
Elizabeth Friedman-Rubin February 07, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Aside from being a wonderful local business, RJ Julia has been a place that I often go to (at least once a week!) to escape and get lost in all of the amazing books. No matter how often I visit, there is always something new to discover. Yes, I can purchase any of the books or products carried in the store in most places or websites. I can't, however, replace the unique and special experience I find each time I walk through RJ Julia's door.
Cathy Marsh Photography February 07, 2012 at 12:17 PM
When we talk about important retailers in Madison-- it is important to note the passing of Charlie Hale, owner of Tuxis Hardware Store. Charlie passed away on February 4 TH. Charlie grew up in Madison and was a DHHS graduate. he leaves his wife Carolyn and two daughters.
Andrew Kaplan February 07, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Yes Tuxis hardware is an amazing store, and like R.J. Julia prove that with exceptional customer service and sharp business acumen it's possible to thrive as a "brick and mortar" business. I would also add that I bought my stove, and oven at Tuxis. My thoughts go out to Carolyn and his daughters.
Pem McNerney (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 01:09 PM
I just spoke with Chuck Sweet, the manager at Tuxis and he said that while employees were very sad to hear the news of Charlie's passing, that there is no question the business will continue to serve Madison "hopefully for another 50 plus years."
eileen banisch February 07, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Charlie was a big guy with a big heart. He cheerfully loaned the Chamber one of their flatbed trucks for the Christmas parade each year and delighted in how it was transformed into a holiday float. From his obituary: Friends may call at the Guilford Funeral Home, 115 Church St, Guilford, on Wed. Feb. 8 from 5 - 7 pm. All are welcome to a celebration of life gathering on Sunday, Feb. 12 from 12 - 3 pm at the Centerbrook Meeting House, 51 Main Street, Centerbrook. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Mr. Hale's memory may be made to Heifer International Fund.
patricia donohue February 07, 2012 at 04:35 PM
i fear that RJ's will be supplanted by another real estate company or bank, the only businesses that can afford the rents downtown. i do not see a future for RJs w/o Roxanne at the helm. i wish that i felt differently but just look at the empty store fronts. i'm tired of saying good-bye to the entrepenural shopkeeps like Roxanne, Linda (Belles and Beaus),Judy (Maries),Mike (Dial M)etc.these folks gave the town character and made madison a destination. i don't understand the bottomline mentality of our local propery-owners. empty storefronts make me sad.
Diane Green February 07, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I agree about not wanting empty storefronts, but ironically, Roxanne and her husband OWN the building she is in, as well as the buildings housing Savvy Tea, Khaki and Black and Elite. Also, Dial M for Movies IS open - they're in the shopping plaza ear Nick's, under new ownership. We go there all the time. Remember, shopping isn't only about downtown.
Pem McNerney (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Good point Diane, I was just at Dial M the other day. And another new business opened in that area, North Country Outfitters, so that part of town is seeing some new action too. For more about Roxanne and her thoughts on the sale, see this: http://patch.com/A-qFK8. You're right about that other building complex they own, they are clearly invested in downtown Madison's future at this point.
Phil February 07, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Maybe the town can buy it for 5 times the asking price and we can turn it into a ball field?
Matt February 07, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Well, last time a piece of significant real estate was for sale, that's exactly what our town did. I'm waiting for the people on here who love spending other people's money to suggest something like that. Oh we can buy it and use it for free public displays of art and love!
Michael February 07, 2012 at 07:46 PM
Lets be honest. Roxanne knows a deal when she sees one and she knows when the party is over. I am surprised she held in this long. The writing has been on the wall for a while. The life of the small town book store is supplanted by the future of electronic readers. We all love or occasional visit to the store. I especially love the last minute gift selection. But anyone who thinks they can make it work as a book store needs to have their financial head examined. I am sorry to hear the call of this Madison destination getting one step closer to closing. But buyer beware.
Pem McNerney (Editor) February 07, 2012 at 08:06 PM
You might be right Michael. I hate it when the party is over. Still, sometimes there's another party soon thereafter. I'm probably blinded by my love for books on this one ... I still buy lots of (too many, in fact) traditional books and online books and I can't wait to try out that Espresso Book Machine on March 1. Maybe they'll have a real party to celebrate it ... one can only hope.
Janet February 08, 2012 at 12:26 PM
I would like to think there is still an important place for the neighborhood book store, especially with the closing of Borders chain. People still love to go an browse and find a great book. Let's hope that people continue to support R. Julia, whomever the new owners may be.
Andrew Kaplan February 08, 2012 at 01:28 PM
Hmm, when was the last time Amazon held a free Children's Story time reading in Madison, RJ Julia does it every Thursday at 10:15 A.M. How many of us have attended famous author events at the book store, or attended writer workshops or listened to local writers share their latest works. Below are some stats on Madison. Are we that cheap that we need to save $10 on something as wonderful and priceless as a good book ? The median home cost in Madison is $444,100.Compared to the rest of the country, Madison's cost of living is 58.40% Higher than the U.S. average.Madison public schools spend $6,552 per student. The average school expenditure in the U.S. is $5,678. The unemployment rate in Madison is 5.80 percent(U.S. avg. is 9.10%).
Charles February 08, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Unfortunately the new senior center, new ambulance building, new football field, Griswold property, and many other nice to haves will effect all of our taxes. The store owners taxes will go up and the rents will go up as well. So...
Pem McNerney (Editor) February 08, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Not North Country Outfitters! North Country Traders. New business at 25 Boston Post Road, open on the weekends, specializing in "Hand Crafted Country Pine Furniture. Arts and Antiques, Collectibles and Shabby Chic," according to their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/North-Country-Traders/301248453251956?ref=ts.
Phil February 09, 2012 at 01:24 AM
What does "The Patch" put back in the community. At least "The Source" supports small businesses by giving them advertising space and well as being an unbias report of the real news in Madison

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