PUBLISHED: Wednesday, December 26, 2007, The Voice News
MC entrepreneurs ask for community support
Book Blues owners urge, 'shop local'
by Jeri Packer
Voice staff writer
Jacqueline and Todd Wilson, owners of The Book Blues Bookstore in Marine City aren't shy about expressing their passion to keep their local family-owned business alive.
"In the movie, You've Got Mail, Meg Ryan starts a 'Save the Shop Around the Corner' campaign when the viability of her independent children's bookstore is threatened by a big box chain store moving in across the street," Jackie Wilson stated in a recent press release.
Now, she insists, it's their turn to fight.
The couple swallowed their pride and recently wrote a letter to the community they have grown to love, letting them know that their store was in danger of closing.
"It was a tough decision, but basically we decided to let our customers and the community know what was going on," Wilson said. "We felt that if the community really wanted us to stay, then we should give them the chance to exhibit that. We especially owe it to the loyal customers."
Wilson said the customer response was overwhelming, but they are being "cautiously optimistic" about the current support being enough to carry them through the coming months after all the publicity dies down.
The Wilson's moved from the Washington D.C. area to open The Book Blues in downtown Marine City in June 2006. The store is on the corner of Water and Broadway streets, two of the main arteries into the downtown area. Jackie Wilson is also a writing consultant and published author. In addition, she runs an online women's tee shirt boutique called Explosive Kiss T-shirts at explosivekiss.com.
"All the merchandise is kiss-based," she said. "They all have lips on them in some creative way."
Wilson said The Book Blues is not just your average, run-of-the-mill bookstore.
"We're a pretty unique used bookstore," she explained. "The majority of our books are used, but they are of a quality superior to other used bookstores."
She explained that the store is set up to look and feel like a bookstore that sells all-new books.
"People come in and ask where's your used books?' she said. "That's how good they look."
The store carries a limited amount of new book releases, but they will order new books at a 15 percent discount to the customer, with no shipping costs added.
In the year-and-a-half they have owned the store, the local entrepreneurs have become known for their community involvement by sponsoring classes and organizing local events.
They organize community events like the recent Trick or Treat Trail that brought more than 300 people to local businesses in Marine City, said Wilson.
The couple also makes it a point to bring in local authors to the store, such as Roger LeLievre, author of "Know Your Ships," and New Baltimore Officer Tim Lindstrom, author of "The Adventures of Cubby."
They also consider "cross-promotion" to be a strong focal point for their store and encourage their patrons to also shop at other local businesses in town.
"We've been one of the strongest business supporters in the area," Wilson said.
What can the community do to show their support?
"Buy your dog food at the local pet store. Get your books at the local bookstore," Wilson said.
"Independent businesses can turn around quickly. It's only been in the last three months that we've had any trouble. It's easier to shop at a one-stop big-box store and it may be cheaper and more convenient, but if you like to live in a small community, you have to shop in the community. If you don't shop at our stores regularly - and not just every few months - we're going to be gone."
Wilson added that much of the real character of a historical community derives from the independent, private-owned stores lining the streets.
Christine Kadey is a regular customer at the corner bookstore and said she would miss patronizing the "delightful" shop, situated across from the St. Clair River, should they be forced to close. She believes the family-owned businesses are part of what makes Marine City the town that it is.
"I have a real heart for Marine City and I want to see it prosper," she said. "I try to shop Marine City first always. It's like being patriotic."
Judy White, President of the Marine City Chamber of Commerce, works with local businesses, providing support and education to local business-owners.
"Speaking as a dyed-in-the-wool 'bibliophile', any hint of a bookstore closing is cause for alarm," she said. "Recent economic news shows sales better than expected in November so hopefully that trend will continue and boost business for Book Blues and all retail in Marine City."
Whatever the future economic trends, the Wilson's will have to decide quickly whether they will continue to work and serve in Marine City. Their lease, with a one-month extension, expires the end of January. And with their first baby due in March, these "mom and pop storeowners" will be making some major family decisions soon.
PUBLISHED: Wednesday, December 26, 2007, The Voice News
Struggling bookstore makes plea to patrons
Marine City's Book Blues faces closure
By NICOLE GERRING, Times Herald
MARINE CITY- For a year and a half, the cozy bookstore on the corner of Water and Broadway streets has been a haven for young moms, retirees, teenagers and other community members.
Now, like many locally owned shops, the Book Blues is feeling the pinch of Michigan's struggling economy.
Earlier this month, Book Blues owners Jackie and Todd Wilson sent an e-mail to loyal customers with some bad news. If business doesn't improve by late January, the popular bookstore will close.
The Wilsons are turning to their loyal customers for survival and have launched a campaign called "Save the Book Blues: Shop locally or there will be no local shops."
Although Jackie, a former college instructor and marketing manager, acknowledges it was an unorthodox move to make the store's status so public, she said she wanted to inform her regular customers of the precarious situation.
"The people who have supported us deserve to know instead of what many businesses do, which is packing up in the middle of the night without an explanation," she said. "Now's the time to show your love or we won't be here."
The Wilsons prize themselves on their connections with customers and on the store's inviting atmosphere. The store, which sells used and new books, offers free coffee to customers and features comfortable chairs and couches where people can rest their feet while turning pages. A children's area includes small chairs, bean bags and plush toys and allows young customers to scope out books filed away in a cubby.
Kim Mucciante of St. Clair dropped by the store Thursday morning looking for the latest Harry Potter novel.
"(My kids) love the children's section," she said. "It's really cozy in here. This is a nice cultural thing. It's more cultural than what we usually have around here. It's a great bookstore."
Mucciante was surprised the store may have to close its doors. The "nice personal touch" makes the Book Blues stand out from big box retailers such as Barnes & Noble Booksellers, she said.
"There's nothing here like this," she told Jackie. "I hope you stay."
The Wilsons, who on a whim moved to Marine City from northern Virginia a few years ago, don't want to close. Before a lull arrived this fall, the store was doing pretty well, Jackie said.
The business usually brings in only a little more than what it spends, so even a short slow spell can have a large impact, she said.
"It can change overnight for a small business," she said. "We run pretty close to what we make."
Recently, the family has had to subsidize the business with their own money.
Todd Wilson works full time as a sales director for a home entertainment company. Jackie, who manages the store, never has paid herself a salary.
As the couple prepares to have their first baby in March, they can't continue running a slow business, she said.
"How the community reacts and continues to support us could really save us," she said.
Contact Nicole Gerring at (810) 989-6270 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published December 22, 2007
STRANGE THINGS THAT HAPPENED TO ME YESTERDAY
At the bookstore:
1. A customer calls:
Customer: "I tried to stop in your store on Monday but it was closed."
ME: "Oh. I'm sorry. I was at the hospital."
Customer: *minor annoyance* "Geeesh, I'm trying to help out your store, but I can't when it's CLOSED."
ME: "Uh, yeah, sorry, I was at THE HOSPITAL."
2. I call a customer to pick up her book order:
ME: "Hi, I just wanted to let you know that your order is in.
Elderly Woman: "You must have the wrong number."
ME: "Oh, I'm sorry! Is this [repeats phone number just dialed]."
Elderly Woman: "HMPF. Don't know about that but it ain't my phone number."
ME: blink blink blinks at dial tone on phone
With my husband:
1. Todd: "You do know that they make thong underwear for pregnant women, right?!?"
ME: blink blink blink
(Um...I'm still at a loss what a good response to this was...)
2. I relay to my husband that the baby now has her eyes open and can see. He gets a flashlight to shine on my stomach to see if the baby reacts...
...and then promptly starts to make shadow puppets on my stomach for the baby...
HELLLLOOOOOO....FULL MOON YESTERDAY, ANYONE?!?!
- Watch Ann Curry from the Today Show bungee jump off of a bridge.
- Watch your husband eat breakfast while you fast.
- Edit part of a book.
- Make a baby shower list.
- Pee in a men's restroom.
- Shop in the gift shop.
- Make friends with a welfare mom on the same testing schedule as you.
- Walk the same hallway route back and forth 10 times.
The following are things I felt compelled to discuss with my husband in a stream of consciousness at 3 a.m. this morning:
- "Do you think those people on the Martha Stewart show yesterday who received colored dice as their audience gift were thinking, 'I KNEW we should've gone to Oprah!'"
- "Don't you wish we had blueberry pancakes?"
- "We haven't even taken a parenting class! And, I'm SURE it's the key to all success!"
- "Did you know that we have to pick a pediatrician BEFORE we give birth and NO moms in town are happy with theirs?!?"
- "Do you think it's snowing outside?"
- "What IS [Ninja Cocaine Kitty] doing out there?!?"
"What do you think they really put in that Mystic Pizza anyway?!?"
I'm 7 months pregnant.
Who can believe?
There are lots of things I've learned in the past 7 months of this pregnancy. Some of it I learned on my own (and some of it the "hard" way). For example: how much you take simple things about your body for granted, how calm your life was before (despite what you thought), how much small things don't matter, who your true friends are, what family REALLY means...
Other things I've learned have come from other sources - the Internet, literature, and a little email I get each day called The Daily Kick (clever, right?) from Parenting.com.
A few days ago, they had a feature on making yourself a birthing room CD. Um...hellllloooo?!? People ACTUALLY have time to do this?!?!? I haven't even made a nursery or taken a parenting class. Now I'm supposed to fit in MAKING A BIRTHING ROOM CD ALSO?!?
Anyway, I thought I would share with you their suggested playlists, because HELLLOOOO, SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT IT.
To keep you calm and focused...
“Don’t Panic”, by Coldplay“Playground Love”, by Air “Come Rain or Come Shine”, by Frank Sinatra
“Wild Horses”, by Mazzy Star“Into the Mystic”, Van Morrison “Try a Little Tenderness”, by Otis Redding "Kind of Blue," by Miles Davis"Carolina On My Mind," by James Taylor"Destiny," by Zero 7"Gettin' in the Way," by Jill Scott"2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten," by Lucinda Williams
OK, honestly? There is not one song on here that I would find soothing to keep me "calm and focused". If someone plays "Don't Panic" by Coldplay and tells me to calm down? I'm kicking them in head.
To get you psyched to push...
“Push It (Ooh, baby, baby)”, by Salt ‘n’ Pepa (“All you fly mothers, get on out there and dance!”)“Wind It Up” and “Hollaback Girl”, by Gwen Stefani (Damn, she’s cool! She had Kingston – you can do this, too!) “I’m Every Woman”, by Whitney Houston“Take Your Mama”, by Scissor Sisters“Harder to Breathe”, Maroon 5“Rock and Roll”, by Led Zeppelin “Rock Your Body”, by Justin Timberlake“I Will Survive”, by Gloria Gaynor"Born to Run," by Bruce Springsteen "Ain't No Other Man," by Christina Aguilera"Shining Star," by Earth Wind & Fire"Kids in America," by Kim Wilde
Alright, I've not made my Salt-n-Pepper love a secret. HOWEVER, PUSH IT?!?! Wow. I don't think so. There are no words to cover this suggestion. I think Gwen Stefani is FINE, but belting out HOLLABACK GIRL in between pushing and screaming is not my idea of psyching me up. And, Rock Your Body by JT? Just may make me shoot my husband.
To keep you feeling happy despite, you know, the circumstances...“Love and Happiness”, by Al Green“Here Comes the Sun”, by the Beatles“Grace”, by Jeff Buckley“Dream a Little Dream of Me”, by the Mamas and the Papas “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic”, by the Police“You Can’t Hurry Love”, by Diana Ross“It’s the End of the World”, by REM "Good Vibrations" Beach Boys "Raspberry Beret," by Prince "Listen to the Music," by the Doobie Brothers
OK. So this list? I don't get AT ALL. Prince's "Raspberry Beret"?!? WTF?!?!
Beach Boys "Good Vibrations"?!? UH. NO.
And WHAT does REM's "End of the World" have to do with keeping me HAPPY?!?! I'm just guessing, but "It's the end of the world as we know it" is probably NOT a lyric I want running through my head during childbirth. (Not to mention, do I really need fun memories like singing this song in college while moshing around bars to remind me of what will NEVER. BE. AGAIN?!?! I think not...)
I'm thinkin' I won't be making a birthing room CD. But, I'll keep you posted...
PS-The funny part about the title of this post is that every year I tell people I'm 28 on my birthday. I don't know why. I don't have "issues" with my age, or getting older (er, I don't think...). But anyway....
Ok, seriously, in this day and age it really shouldn't take 6 hours to print something, right?
For a one page flyer.
I hate the printer at my bookstore *cough*HP OFFICEJET 4300*cough*. Aside from the fact that it holds, oh, I don't know, 1 teaspoon of ink that runs out every 3rd printed page, it is just a pain in the a** for such a simplistic, unassuming looking little printer. For example, every time you change a printer cartridge, you have to wait for the cartridges to realign (which is a lot longer than it sounds), manually feed a blank sheet of paper in, have it print off lines and dots & some Aborigine clicks (yes, using half the new cartridge you just replaced), and then MANUALLY RE-FEED the piece of paper back into the machine so that it can do some alien-life-form reading of the dashes and dots.
This is just to CHANGE THE CARTRIDGE.
OH, And, guess what? If you make a mistake (like, say, sneezing on the machine or making any sudden movements) while it's going through this convenient little process then it will freeze and cause errors.
WHICH NEVER CLEAR OUT OF THE MEMORY.
It only took me 2 days to print my 1-page flyer.
Wonder how much an old fashioned printing press would run me?
Ninja Cocaine Kitty's creative process for TP art:
Please note the artistic use of fang-like teeth to create the art instead of claws. TRES CREATIVE!
Learn how you can get an original Ninja Cocaine Kitty TP Art piece.
So, three weeks ago during a nice, sunny, crisp Fall day you might say to your husband something like, oh, I don't know..."Gee. Look at all those leaves in our gutters! We really need to clean those out before snow so that it doesn't clog up and cause a leak." And your husband might reply with an unconcerned comment like, say, "OH WELL!" and then three weeks later when there's a steady stream of water pouring into your dining room after a snow turned to sleet turned to rain storm and he has to go out in the 45-feels-like-39 degree dark & rain to clean out the gutters in hopes of stopping the leak, he might just, say, be really pissed and take it out on you when you screech, "Remember 3 weeks ago when I said, 'We need to clean out those gutters before they cause a leak?!!!'".
I'm just sayin'...
did could happen...)