Brick and Mortar

I haven’t posted here in my reading blog for a while. That’s because I’ve been caught up in a huge life project. Let me tell you all about it…

One day, after being particularly disenfranchised with the world of higher education, I had this lightbulb moment while taking a shower – where I come up with all my best ideas. My brain presented me with these facts.

1. I know more about children’s book than anyone I know.
2. I enjoy working with kids and families and teachers.
3. I always said I was going to open a bookstore when I retired.

So, why wait until I retire…from a job I didn’t have and was less and less excited about getting…to do the thing I really wanted to do. Why not do it NOW? This is perfect for me, I thought. I can open a children’s bookstore and tutor kids, and work with parents and teachers….. my mind was racing with all the things I could do!
I texted my husband and said, “I have an idea! Call me as soon as you can!” This is not the kind of message he gets often so he knew something was up. He admitted he was a little scared about what I’d say when he called back. But as soon as he knew, he was all for this idea right and has been every step of the way since.
My lightbulb moment has turned into a few years of researching, planning, and learning about worlds that are brand new to me. I’ve researched business models. I’ve learned about and found experts in marketing, bookkeeping, financials, legal aspects, hiring and payroll, point of sale systems, insurance, bookstore fixtures, bookstore design, floor plans. I’ve asked questions like, can I be nonprofit? A profit/non profit hybrid? What about a social enterprise? I’ve read business journals and met with business advisors, who have been vital to this whole operation. I have a list of people who are ready to help me in every area and aspect of this venture.
And now all that work is almost paying off. I’m almost ready to apply these new skills so I can do the things I’m best at every day. The list I started with when the lightbulb flipped on – talking about children’s books; helping children, parents, and teachers find the best books specifically for them, helping kids learn to read, helping kids who struggle with literacy skills (reading, writing, listening speaking), teaching music, teaching arts enrichment, guiding innovative clubs and writing clubs, planning kids’ parties, teaching summer and spring break camps, working with groups of parents or groups to help them best support their children, and working with groups of teachers to learn about and talk about new ideas for teaching literacy and the arts. I’m SO EXCITED to start working on this list of skills again. I’ve learned so much and will continue to learn more and more about the business side, but all of this new knowledge is worthwhile because it will allow me to do the things I love to do. And that moment is just around the corner.
When I first had this idea, I let it float around. I entertained the idea of it all, wondered what it would mean, what life would be like, if it was possible. I took a few first steps. I bought some books on starting your own business. I discovered that i could talk to the Women’s Business Center advisors and Small Business Development Center advisors. I started to think about my lightbulb idea as a possible reality. Then, I had a turning point when I read a novel where the main character took a leap and opened a bookstore. I knew it was just a fiction novel, but I felt my heart leaping at the idea that I could do this too. Instead of saying ‘maybe’, I told my family, I am going to do this. Each of these steps helped my idea seem more and more real. I worked with everyone who would help me and could not have gotten anywhere without that help. I learned that there is a lot of free help, but I’ve also invested myself to work with a bookstore consultant and attend an independent bookstore conference, to start working up marketing materials, to work on the legal aspects of starting a business. These steps definitely were huge in helping me make the leap from idea to reality both as far as the actual planning but also just mentally. Harder than the actual work and planning is convincing myself that this is my new reality.
I’ve also learned that every step takes longer than I anticipated and longer than I hoped for. I had hoped to open in the summer. I had hoped (when summer didn’t happen) to open in the fall for the new school year. Maybe in time for holiday shopping? Maybe start the educational programming in January? And the wait involves patience because I’m excited to get going. But the closer it gets also builds a little fear and anticipation. Will it work? Will people come? Can I do it? But now that I’ve personally invested the answers are YES! I’ll make it work! I can do this and people will want to come. It’ll be my job to make sure people want to come and find everything they need when they do. Not just books for every level and interest, but help figuring out for each person what that means. People can come to my store to find things like birthday party grab bags on different topics, price ranges, wrapped and ready to go. Kids can receive hand picked books just for them through the book of the month club. I will work with every child and parent to make sure they walk away with just the right book in their hand. The book that will turn a lightbulb on for each child. I will offer tutoring for those who struggle, enrichment for those who need a challenge, writing clubs for those who need a space to explore their talents or express their ideas, camps to provide enrichment during school breaks, arts enrichment classes to utilize all the arts as an avenue to think about the world.
I am in full support of teachers and schools and all the work they are doing every day with all of our kids. They do everything they can with all the resources they have available and all the time in their day to help every child. But part of understanding and supporting teachers is realizing that they can’t do everything. That sometimes there is more that needs to be done, more than can be done. So I will offer all of these supplemental educational services that fill in the gaps, that broaden the experiences, that give kids the extra push, that provide an extra challenge. These are the ways I can support teachers and schools. These are all the things I was meant to do. That lightbulb that went off for me was because I realized that I can’t do these things while teaching classes online, and maybe I couldn’t even do them in the walls of a university, the job I thought I should be getting.

But I can do them on the third floor of the Mill #3 (Fitness Mill building) at the Treehouse Reading and Arts Center. It’s hard to be patient and wait for this piece of paperwork,and that person, and this application, and that approval. This dream will become a reality. It is real. In not too long, I’ll walk across the rope bridge and see it all in front of me, and I can’t wait to invite you all in to see it with me.