Change is inevitable - and perhaps essential - for small businesses in the Vail Valley. No adage could define The Bookworm of Edwards more clearly. This year, the independent bookstore celebrates its 15th anniversary. To celebrate, the current owners are throwing a party on Saturday in honor of the business's founders, Kathy Westover and Neda Jansen.
"I can't be more proud of how The Bookworm has grown up," said Jansen, who now resides in Alberta, Canada with her husband, Ross. "It's like a dream come true."
Jansen and Westover were among the first to open a shop in Edwards in 1997. At that time, The Gas House and the post office were the only commercial spots in town. Today, Edwards has the highest concentration of year-round residents in the county.
In the mid-'90s, Westover saw potential in the down-valley market. As a teacher, she knew a literary community lingered outside the boundaries of Vail and Beaver Creek. So she bought a van and some heavy-duty storage containers. She schlepped books to coffee shops and private homes where reading groups converged until she raised enough support to build a bookstore.
"The original space was 650 square feet," remembers current owner Nicole Magistro, who started working as a bookseller in 2002. "We lovingly referred to it as a three-butt store. If there were more than three people in there, it was crowded."
Today, The Bookworm is a vibrant community gathering place, taking up nearly 3,000 square feet in Riverwalk, hosting more than 80 events per year and operating a full-service cafe. That metamorphosis will be chronicled in a slide show of then-and-now photographs featured on the store's flat screen TV, and also told through the stories of customers who have seen the bookstore grow.
"We are excited to have Kathy and Neda back home, to celebrate our roots and look at how far we've come," said co-owner Kristi Feichinger. "It is a trip down memory lane for the whole community."
Where are they now?
After launching the business and pouring herself into every aspect of the book industry for the better part of a decade, Westover jumped into graduate school and became a master nutrition therapist after leaving the valley in 2005. Today, she operates a bustling practice in Fort Collins.
Still a voracious reader, Westover is known to be reading a half-dozen books at once "If you count books on tape while I'm driving," she said.
Jansen used her business acumen to spawn another retail endeavor. She is the general manager of Patagonia stores in Banff and Calgary.
Both look forward to reconnecting with old friends this weekend, as well as talking about the importance of maintaining support for the valley's only remaining bookstore in the digital age.
"One of the best ways to support our way of life is to support local business," said Westover, who recalled the active lifestyle valley residents cherish. "By buying your books at The Bookworm you are also supporting your mind."
Kelli Kostroski is the marketing, events and co-op manager for the Bookworm of Edwards. Email comments about this story to email@example.com.