The Lure of an Address
It is cold here in Edmonton.
It's -12 and there is a bitter wind.
There is snow and slush on the ground and people prefer to be indoors. I don't blame them - so do I!
The trouble is that for a bookshop on wheels, this means I am CLOSED. It is something I knew would occur, and when I was on the road 6 days a week for much of the nice weather, I had been looking forward to colder weather so the pace could slow down and I could get a bit of a break. But now I've had the break and I am rarin' to get back to bookselling!!
So, I have been resurrecting the sister idea of a booktruck which is a brick & mortar bookstore. It is a very common dream for readers around the world to set up shop and open a bookstore of their very own. I hear every week from Daisy readers that I am doing their "dream job", and I get to hear their stories of a shelved fantasy of a place they could call their own filled with all the cozy wonder of the best bookstores they have ever visited. I get it. I am the same.
Truth is, I have had a sketch of my ideal bookstore for a long time (surprise, surprise), and when the weather is cold and my sweet Daisy is parked in the driveway covered in snow, I pull out that sketch and ruminate on its viability. Just like my imaginings of the booktruck, I have dreamed of the bookstore so often I KNOW IT, as if I had actually visited it. I can see it, smell it, and I know what it sounds like. My imagination is crystal clear. And like other mobile businesses, there is an evolution of business that demands you go bigger, and it seems like a natural next step to move from a mobile unit to a brick & mortar location. I am not immune to taking things to the next step in the process of growing my business and being available to my Readers all year 'round, but there are a number of challenges.
1. THE COST OF RETAIL SPACE
I have contacted a number of realtors and developers about properties that have intrigued me. I haven't always envisioned my store in their location, but I often collect info for future reference and for comparison. I recently looked at a new commercial building, a modern strip mall area with convenient parking and in a new residential area. The space I inquired about was 1257 square feet. The cost per square foot is $34 and then there is an additional cost of $14 /sf for operational costs.
That is a total of $6,034 per month + utilities and taxes
On top of all that, I would have to pay for setting up the space, purchasing shelving, flooring, painting, a bathroom build and a Contractor because let's face it - I can't do this alone. Let's not forget insurance, an updated business license and permits. Then I have to purchase more books to fit in the space, pay to move the books I have in inventory elsewhere and pay for all the signage and marketing material I would need on top of the regular setup fees, of which there are MANY.
You know how may books I'd have to sell JUST to pay for the privilege of having an address? I'd also have to consider raising the prices to justify my overhead.
2. AN ADDRESS IS A MINI HANDCUFF
When you have your own business, you are on call 24/7. This is both a privilege and a burden. Not unlike parenting, being a business owner demands all of you and doesn't care if you are sick, tired, worn out or equipped to handle the stress. The door still needs to be open and you still need to get the job done.
Vacation is hard to schedule because you are always needed, and sometimes you are the only one who can do what is necessary to keep the business open. What if something happens while you're gone?
Family dinners, holidays, date nights - these have to fit in around your business. I hate to sound callous, but it's true. Some entrepreneurs say that you have to eat, sleep and breathe your business so it can succeed. Am I ready for that? My girls are grown now, immersed in university and young adulting realities, and Hubs has more freedom in his hectic schedule than ever before. This would be OUR time to travel, spend time as a family doing the fun things we have looked forward to... Do I really want to trade that for a 24/7 bookstore business?
3. I CAN'T DO IT ALL
Staffing. I would have to hire staff to help with all the inventory, bookseller service and support for when I have other things I have to do. That means going through the hiring (and inevitably, the firing) process, and adding yet another fee to my Cost of Doing Business.
Honestly, I also struggle with the Entrepreneur Pride of Ownership struggle - I believe that no one will love my business and pay as much attention to it as much as I would. I want to do it all myself, but I realize that is not realistic.
So, there you have it. When you see it all laid out, I must be a FOOL for wanting to take my sketches and actually open a bookstore of my own. And yet... if I could swing it, I would jump at the chance in a heartbeat.
This is the dilemma of the bookseller life when you are limited to a truck that holds 9 people, and you secretly desire a space to host 90.