Steve and Kelly Brewer aren’t going against the current as owners of a new family-owned retail business. You could say they’re riding a title wave.
Book sellers have been squeezed in recent years by online sellers and digital devices, and some retail analysts have pointed to the demise of old-fashioned printed books. The Brewers — and many others — beg to differ.
The couple, both former journalists and avid readers, along with their two sons, strongly believe that people, even younger readers, still enjoy holding a reading device that doesn’t require a battery. They’ll put this idea to the test when they open Organic Books at the Nob Hill Business Center in early November.
“The nostalgia for printed books will always be there,” said Steve, who’s also the author of 31 books, mostly mysteries.
They’re banking on customers who love the touch and smell of an all-natural (paper) book and who want an authentic bookstore experience. As one of many indie booksellers in town, the couple hopes to attract customers who like to browse, hang out and hopefully buy their merchandise. Steve said, “There’ll be some plants and cozy furniture” to add to the ambience of the 1,200 square-foot space at 111 Carlisle SE.
The space is a former nail salon that the property owner is renovating as the future home for the 5,000 used books the Brewers have been collecting over the years. They’ve been frequenting estate sales and library sales to build their inventory.
“The (new) space has long walls perfect for bookshelves,” said Steve, adding the store will have an antique table at the front of the store featuring new books by local authors, including some of his own titles.
In doing their due diligence, the couple was impressed by the number of successful independent booksellers in town that have managed to survive the retail doldrums. The Brewers expect Organic Books will be a regular stop for book people drawn to a family-owned small-business bookstore. Readings and special events also are planned.
“Naturally, we want to generate enough sales in order for our sons (Max and Seth) to make a living,” said Steve.
Based on recent trends, The Brewers aren’t the only ones taking a page from the past.
As detailed in an April 2018 Business Outlook article, independent book stores grew 41 percent, from 1,651 stores in 2009 to 2,321 locations in 2017, according the American Booksellers Association. The association said overall book sales at indie bookstores rose 2.6 percent in 2017 from the previous year.