Bookworm banks on breadth
EDWARDS – Faced with no retail space to open her new store, Kathy Westover, owner of The Bookworm in Edwards, thought outside the box – literally. “I actually packed $5,000 worth of inventory in my car and went around to different coffee shops. The radio would announce where I was for the day. I was ‘The Bookworm without Walls,'” Westover says with a laugh.The Bookworm finally got its walls. Now entering its 10th year of business in Edwards, The Bookworm continues to grow in profit, if not in space, Westover says. The space Westover chose is only 800 square feet. Typically, Westover buys one or two of each title that she selects. She focuses on range over depth, she says. “I try to have a broader title selection and not so much in depth because that way I can spend my money more wisely,” Westover says.She is the sole buyer for the store. Her partner Neda Jansen holds the financial reins of the business. “She does all the money end of [the business]. She gives me a budget that I stay within,” Westover says. Broadway JoeWith approximately 10,000 new books published every month, Westover must pick and choose what will end up in the store. “I get hundreds of catalogs. I go through every one with a fine-toothed comb and I read about each book,” she says.
Experience helps in choosing what to buy, but she admits she is not infallible. “After eight or nine years of doing this, I have pegged what sells in the store,” she says. “But then there are some things you never know, like the Joe Namath (biography). I thought that one would go flying out the door. I sold like two and I bought 10. I very rarely buy 10.”Though space limits in-store stock, The Bookworm special orders for customers every day. “Usually within two to three business days, we’ll have a book for our customers,” Westover says. “We also do out-of-print searches.”The Bookworm also works with, not against, Verbatim Booksellers in Vail. “We’re on each other’s speed dial,” she says. “The important part is to get it to the customer.”Westover explains away any notion of competition. “We have very different customer bases,” she says. “I think the people in Vail shop at Verbatim and the people that live out here shop with me. My biggest competitor is Amazon.com.” Still, The Bookworm manages to hold its own against the online shopping giant. “I can’t tell you have many people bring in Amazon.com printouts and want to order the book from me or want to see it, if I have it,” she says. “Most people want to hold the book, smell the book, touch the book, lick the book, whatever,” she says. Sundays are Westover’s favorite day at the store, she says, because that’s when all the browsers come in. “I love having somebody else in the store with me. I hear the little noises in the back and I hear pages turning,” she says. “It makes my heart feel good.”Reading requiredWestover shares her customers’ love of books, as do Jansen and all of their employees.
“I read six books at a time and have one (book-on-tape) going in the car,” Westover says. “I get five, six books done a month and so does Neda. We read something different. So do all my employees.”Impromptu discussions of books regularly occur in the store. When it comes to recommending books, Westover says honesty is her policy. “I am the first one to say, ‘Don’t buy it,’ or ‘You want my opinion? It wasn’t that great,'” she says. “People appreciate that.” That appreciation shows in the loyalty of the store’s customers and the distances they will go to shop at The Bookworm, she says. “I have people that come from the Denver area, that live near The Tattered Cover, that come here and buy $200 worth of books to bring back home,” Westover says. “They know that I will hand them books that I enjoyed.” Westover credits The Bookworm’s success to this honest approach and the store’s overall customer service. “I do not hire anyone that does not read. I can teach anyone to use the computer and say, ‘Hi, how are you? Let me know if I can help you,’ but I cannot teach to anyone to read and love books,” she says. Attracting authorsThe Bookworm is not the only place in the valley to find such a love of books. “We have over 80 bookclubs registered in our store. To the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association, I am the bookclub queen,” says Westover, referring to the regional independent booksellers’ association of which she is president.Earlier this year, she brought Phillipa Gregory, author of “The Other Boleyn Girl” – one of the Bookworm’s bestsellers – for a signing that turned into a “big, gigantic bookclub,” with around 350 people attending, she says.
This winter Westover plans to create a series featuring “bookclub” authors and facilitating similar events for her fellow book lovers, she says. Westover will announce the authors once she books the events’ location. After starting a business without walls, holding an event without walls does not intimidate Westover. “I’m working on that, amongst all my other thousands of things.,” she says. After all, she adds, “I love to read as much as they do.” The Bookworm of Edwards is located at 0105 Edwards Village Boulevard in the Edwards Village Center. Hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m. The phone number is (970) 926-7323 and special orders also can be taken via e-mail at email@example.com. Vail, Colorado