Book store finds perfect fit in downtown Saratoga
SARATOGA SPRINGS In an age when books are nearly as likely to be purchased online as in a brick-and-mortar store, Northshire Bookstore has established a solid presence in Saratoga Springs.
The store opened in August; the same family operates a Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., as well.
Co-owner Chris Morrow said business has been brisk during Northshire’s first few months in Saratoga Springs, and he expects to make a small profit his first year.
That’s good news in an industry that hasn’t seen much of it lately. Barnes & Noble recently reported sales fell 6.6 percent at its bookstores and online during the 2013 holiday season, compared with last year.
Online retailers are eating up more of the book business than ever, according to the 2013 U.S. Book Consumer Demographics and Buying Behaviors Annual Review. Collected data revealed 44 percent of Americans’ book dollars were spent online in 2012, up from 39 percent in 2011.
E-books are also rising in popularity, capturing an 11 percent share of spending in 2012, compared with 7 percent in 2011, according to the report.
Northshire Bookstore appears to be bucking national trends. The 9,000-square-foot store at 424 Broadway employs more than 20 people kept busy by customers who sometimes come from several hours away to shop there.
Morrow said he believes shoppers frequent the store because it offers something chain bookstores don’t.
“We offer a different atmosphere, a different and more varied selection, and we have excellent booksellers to help customers. I think people are attracted to the unique, the local, the uplifted — to the quality of discovery when you come in our stores,” he said by email.
Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, commended Northshire for its top-notch customer service.
“They get to know their customers and the types of books that they like to read, and so as new books are released, they’ll let you know, or if you walk in and say, ‘I’m interested in X,Y,Z,’ their staff people are trained,” he said.
“It’s not just a transaction to them; they really want you to fall in love with buying books there.”
Shimkus said shoppers are also drawn to the store’s non-linear layout and comfy couches.
“It’s like you’re totally in a different world, being in that bookstore,” he said.
In addition to about 35,000 titles, the store stocks note cards, soap, perfume, toys, calendars and journals.
In 2013, Northshire hosted multiple author events, bringing to town such big names as Doris Kearns Goodwin, Mitch Albom, Ann Patchett and Neil Gaiman. The events, held at Skidmore College and the City Center, helped to attract thousands of people to the downtown area.
“Anytime you can put 600 or 1,000 people downtown, that’s good for us,” Shimkus said.
The bookstore also hosts smaller events, including reading group meetings and children’s activities, which are held at the store and other local sites.
“To be successful, we need to be a true community bookstore,” Morrow explained.
He praised the community his newest store serves.
“Part of the reason we chose to come to Saratoga Springs is the great downtown and the commitment of people there to support their local businesses,” he said. “To have a vibrant, vital community, people need to support their local businesses — it is a win-win for everyone over the long term.”
The store and the building that houses it have helped to increase the city’s vibrancy, Shimkus said. Built by Bonacio Construction, the structure occupies a space that was formerly a parking lot, thus eliminating a gap in activity on Broadway.
“It makes the connection from one side of Broadway to the other side of Broadway that much more vibrant. The social scene along that whole area, the people-watching that folks like to do in Saratoga, is far more simplified by having a continuation of stores and restaurants,” Shimkus said.
A home decor and accessories store, a skin care clinic and a chocolate store also rent space in the building. This month, a hair salon and a cafe are scheduled to open there, too, Morrow said.