This is the fifth installment of Crystal Magazine’s year-long series highlighting women business owners in Eastern North Carolina. In each issue we plan to feature a different woman and her business experience – the good, the bad and the ugly.
What did you do prior to owning the Rocking Chair Book Store?
After several “reinventions” of myself I purchased The Rocking Chair Bookstore and it is my first experience actually working with books. I was always a voracious reader and passionate about books so I decided to go for it.
How long have you owned the Rocking Chair Book Store and how did you come to own it?
I purchased the bookstore in September of 2008. I heard through the grapevine that it was possibly for sale. I have always adored this little store so my husband and I contacted the previous owners, Rick and Marcie Carroll, and bought it. That does mean that the store has been in operation much longer than I have owned it – 35 years in 2014!
You took on an established business – what kind of challenges did you face taking charge of a company that someone else had established?
It was so painless taking over from Rick and Marcie. They had continued the excellent reputation that was established by one of the original owner, Neva Bridges. All are still customers today and can sometimes be found loitering in the shop! The atmosphere here can be contagious, good books, good conversation and sometimes we can scare up a nibble and a glass of wine.
Did the fact that it was an established store make the transition to business ownership easier?
Absolutely, it was like putting on a pair of old, albeit stylish, shoes. I just slipped them on and did not look back.
What is your favorite thing about working for yourself?
You have complete freedom of expression you can literally have as much fun as you want. It also has been an enormous confidence builder for me, allowing me to do things like writing “Turn the Page” for Crystal Magazine. That is something I never would have expected from myself.
What methods do you employ to see continued business growth?
Bookstores and growth seem to be mutually exclusive terms. We have all read the horror stories about the small independent bookstore apocalypse but as more and more people are rallying around the “buy local” mantra I am experiencing an upturn. I have gained a reputation among my customers for locating that hard to find, out of print or special edition book. I also promote my small used section and try and stock what we call bargain books and books on unusual subjects one may not find elsewhere.
In the world of Amazon and box stores, how challenging is it to maintain a small, privately owned book store?
Earlier, I stated that I purchased the store in September 2008. If you will remember during the fall of 2008 was when the economic “bubble” burst. Then, the next year e-books became the rage. Amazon was always in the rearview mirror. I decided to make atmosphere part of the experience. It started with a little putty and a little paint to freshen the space then using social media to gather crowds for theme inspired author events. For example, an event promoting a book about a witch coven in Beaufort was held on a Friday the 13th full moon. We served Full Moonshine punch with themed hor d’ oeuvres and everyone left with a complimentary Moon Pie! You cannot get that from Amazon or a box store.
If a woman interested in owning her own shop asked for your guidance, what would you tell her?
There are a lot of stereotypes about women being more emotional, caring more about relationships than finances, etc. Don’t feel like you need to change yourself to be successful. Use whatever strengths you feel like you have as a woman, to your advantage. Let your entrepreneurial spirit be driven by your individual lifestyle.