If you want to know the secret to running a successful independent bookstore in the year 2012, just ask owner Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA, to tell you everything she did before she opened Avid a year ago and everything she’s done since. The very top of the list is her simple approachability. Seriously, pull up an chair; you’re talking to an old friend in Janet. Then there’s the fact that she spent a good four years planning and doing her research before opening her doors. She attended bookseller’s school, and then interned at a number of bookstores, including our local Eagle Eye Books and Bound to Be Read.
But before she did any of that, she got the community involved.
“We even had different rooms marked off for different sections. It was super nerdy, but really cool to see how many people turned out.”
Then she got on board the local Athens Time Bank. Have y’all heard about this awesome initiative? The way it works is people exchange services for other services. For free. Everyone’s time is equal and so a child weeding your garden for an hour is equivalent to a neighbor helping to retile your bathroom.
Janet had had her eye on the little brick building at 492 Prince Ave from the very beginning. At the time, a salon occupied the space, but in 2011 the owner of the salon moved. Janet seized her opportunity. But with the dream building came the issue of getting rid of sinks and turning the shop into her dream bookstore. That’s when the organizer of the Athen’s Time Bank stepped in, mobilizing people in the community to donate their time to repainting the store, gutting out the sinks and helping in anyway that was needed.
The folks at Avid celebrated their one-year anniversary this month. While some naysayers might say it’s too early to tell what the future of indie bookstores will be, I feel like I’ve visited enough bookstores (successful and struggling) to tell that Avid has tapped into a winning formula. Make it a community effort and the community will support you.