This past Saturday, we welcomed a new member to the independent bookstore family: RoscoeBooks in Chicago, IL. I had a chance to chat electronically with owner Erika VanDam about her experiences on the journey to bookstore ownership. And while she’s nowhere close to being caught up with the Quick & Dirty Survey questions, I think we have a good start.
What made you decide to open a bookstore?
The idea to open a store, particularly a bookstore, was always in the back of my mind as a dream career. I returned to my job in ad sales after having a baby late last year, but was unhappy and began thinking seriously about changing my career entirely. It was after a long conversation with my husband about the things I truly love to do that I decided to explore the idea.
How did you choose your location?
This part was easy. I knew that I wanted the store to be on Roscoe St., and the Roscoe retail strip is less than 10 blocks long, so I didn’t have many options to begin with. The store’s space was the first one I looked at, and I was pleased that it was in such good condition and located on a block with several other popular businesses…so I made it my mission to work out a deal with the owners.
What’s the square footage of the store?
The space is 1,419 total square feet, and the sales floor is about 1,220 square feet.
What has the timeline been, from deciding to open until now?
I first came up with the idea at the end of December last year. I was still working at my previous job, so I decided to spend the next few months doing some research and signed up for a bookselling workshop in May. I told myself that I would make a definite decision after attending that workshop, and since then, everything happened fairly quickly. I found the ideal space in June and signed the lease in mid-August, with the goal of opening before Thanksgiving.
I see you have a Facebook page, what other things have you done to market the store?
The Facebook page has been a huge asset and has become especially important in recent weeks, but in addition to this, the store has been covered by Publishers Weekly, Shelf Awareness, DNAinfo, Chicagoist and the Chicago Reader.
Do you have a website?
Yes, we do, though I’m still putting the finishing touches on it. The site will offer general information about the store, an event calendar, and full E-commerce functionality. I expect to go live with it this weekend.
Do you plan to offer activities?
Is so, what kind? Absolutely! We will have a weekly story hour for children, and hope to do author events and readings as soon as the new year begins. I’d also like to offer quarterly book fairs to all of the local schools, and an open invitation for local book clubs to hold meetings and events at the store.
How many people do you have on staff?
In addition to myself, I have two co-managers and two booksellers.
What hours will you keep?
Monday-Saturday 10am-7pm, and Sunday 10am-6pm.
Have you had any mentors during this process?
Without a doubt, the most important mentors I’ve had during this process have been Donna Paz Kaufman and Mark Kaufman of Paz & Associates. Without their training, insight and good advice, I wouldn’t even have known where to begin. They truly deserve much of the credit for RoscoeBooks’ existence!
What POS software will you use?
I’m using Booklog.
Do you plan to join any trade organizations?
Yes! I already belong to the ABA, and will be joining GLIBA as well.
Why should customers choose to shop at RoscoeBooks?
Customers should shop at RoscoeBooks because we have a little something for everyone, and more importantly, we care deeply about becoming a true resource for our community and getting to know our customers. We know that our customers can buy their books anywhere, and that’s why we plan to listen to their feedback and stock books and gifts that they will love and enjoy for years to come.