Caroline Weingart: Independent Bookstores Provide Community Connection

by | Apr 18, 2019 | Dining, Nightlife, Shopping, Featured Bloggers, Networking & Connections

Remember when we all thought Amazon would put brick and mortar bookstores out of business? While many of them did take a hit from online competition, Northeast Ohio has so many independent book stores that are thriving and serve as a local gathering place in the community. We asked Caroline Weingart, EA’s Director of Post Relocation Services, to share her thoughts on how a bookstore should be the first local small business a newcomer visits to begin to feel at home in a new city. Here are her thoughts…

Bookstores have always had a special place in my heart, second to libraries. Local bookstores, where you know the people who work there, are even better. When our house was for sale over the winter holidays many years ago, we had two showings scheduled for 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. My parents were out of town so I packed up my six month old baby, three year old and five year old, and we headed to our local and most favorite bookstore at Shaker Square. This bookstore had an amazing children’s area complete with train table, giant stuffed animals and books. They had a gift shop and a restaurant. We spent four amazing hours there, had lunch and bought some books. Plus, the baby took a nap while older kids played and browsed through books.

Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights.

Unfortunately, with the past rise of giant booksellers, like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and then Amazon, many small independent booksellers were forced to close their doors. Think back to 1998, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in You’ve Got Mail. She owns the Shop Around the Corner and he is ‘Joe Fox’ opening a brand new Fox Books in NYC. In the movie, the independent bookstore has beautifully decorated windows, story times, author readings, employees who know books and who can recommend your next read. They know your name and your children’s as well.

Despite the rough years for independent booksellers, communities are once again craving the local bookstore experience, and they are trending! “Labor Department data show that the number of bookstores nationwide declined by 12% from 2012 to 2016, but the American Booksellers Association, an independent bookstores trade group, has seen memberships grow by almost 13% in the five years leading up to 2016.” According to Katerina Ang’s MarketWatch article, “Indies are thriving because of Amazon, not in spite of of the internet behemoth. This is a story of two different types of bookstores: one with vast inventory, low prices and algorithm-driven recommendations, and another that lures customers seeking tightly curated collections and a community of bookworms.”

Logaberry Books in the Larchmere neighborhood.

CBS This Morning recently featured a story about the rise of independent booksellers, and they found that from “2009-2015 more than 570 independent bookstores opened in the US making the total 2,200. It was in increase of 35% after a decade of decline.” Harvard Business School Professor Ryan Raffaelli sees the success of local bookstores in a Darwinian survival of the fittest sense. He says, “I think not only are they the fittest, but they’ve also been sensitive, and had the ability to adapt, and reactivate some of the values that were there that may have been muted in a race towards trying to have the cheapest and largest inventory.”

There are many independent bookstores that are thriving in our region and my favorites are Appletree Books in Cleveland Heights and Loganberry Books in the Larchmere neighborhood of Cleveland, on the edge of Shaker Square. I popped in to visit with Lynn Quintrell, the owner of Appletree Books right across from our Executive Arrangements’ office. I asked her about the history of the store and what she had seen in her time working there and then in the past five years since she became its owner.

She said, “people want a place to have an experience…so I give them an experience.” When reading through her monthly newsletter, it reads like a list of community events and that is exactly what goes on there. These cultivated experiences range from the weekly story times for local families to a featured artist every month and an Artist’s Wall. She hosts musical groups and author readings, too.

Window display at Appletree Books.

She has local schools and community groups showcase their art in her windows, and then she hosts receptions for them. Her windows have been one of the store’s most successful collaborations. They began in October 2014 with a window display for the Magnolia Clubhouse Shop. Then, Lynn reached out to Roxboro Elementary School in Cleveland Heights for her first holiday window. Now, Boulevard Elementary School, Noble Elementary School and Heights High also do window collaborations. Lynn loves seeing the students point out their artwork in the windows and everyone celebrating the students’ achievements.

Appletree Books supports a few Book Groups, which I learned are different from Book Clubs. Anyone can attend a Book Group, whereas you need to be invited to a Book Club. Book Groups are great for newcomers! They are open to everyone without an invitation.

The Ecclectic Reads Book Group meets at Nighttown, right down the street from Appletree Books, the second Monday of the month from 7:00-9:00 pm. “It is open to anyone who wants to come,” Lynn said. You can have a glass of wine or dinner or just a cup of coffee. Annie Hogsett, local mystery writer, was a guest at the Book Group, and she talked about her process and people could ask her questions about her latest book, Murder to the Metal. They have two facilitators for the group, Lynn’s husband, Lute Quintrell, and Ed Alix, who has worked at Appletree for the past ten years.

Lynn partners with Bookhouse Brewery on W.25th Street, and they have a Banned Book Group. Ed and Lute facilitate that group as well. She hopes attendance will increase with some increased marketing and maybe a more urban theme for the selected read.

The third Book Group is just starting at nearby Parnell’s on Sunday afternoons. It will be a bit different in that it will be a Silent Book Group. They read together quietly and they can discuss or chat about what they read.

On the east side, Loganberry and Mac’s Backs also host Book Groups. On the west side, people can look to Visible Voice Books in Tremont.

Dave Lucas, the Ohio poet laureate started Brews + Prose at Market Garden Brewery. Their founding principle is “That listening to great writing while sipping great beer could make both experiences better.” Brews + Prose was founded in the summer of 2012 with this idea in mind and six years later the mission has grown to showcase America’s great authors to Cleveland and to showcase Cleveland to America’s great authors. Readings are held the first Tuesday of every month at 7:00 pm in the beautiful Ohio City Room at Market Garden Brewery. And when you buy a book, you’ll receive a free beer.

Fireside Book Shop in Chagrin Falls.

Whether you are new in town or not, check out some of Northeast Ohio’s independent booksellers and grow within your own local community:

At Executive Arrangements, we help new hires and their families settle into their new community by helping them cultivate relationships. Think of us as community experts! Does your company need help welcoming, educating, and connecting top talent and their families to Cleveland or Akron? Call EA to discuss how we can help. 216.231.9311.