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Doors Open at Belmont Books In Center

19 June 2017

From The Belmontian:

The long sheets of paper have been taken from the windows, the shelves are almost all filled with books and while you will need to wait a little bit longer to get a cappuccino, the Town of Homes has seen the return of its very own bookstore as Belmont Books opened officially for browsers and bibliophiles on Friday morning, June 16.

“It has taken us five years to get to this point,” said Belmont resident Chris Abouzeid, who with his wife, Kathy Crowley, own the general bookstore.

. . . .

Abouzeid, who was a bookseller for Porter Square Books for many years, said it’s “basically scary” opening up a new store. “We’re new to retail, and we don’t make any pretense otherwise,” he said, noting they had plenty of help from friends in the business.

The two-floor store – large children’s and young adult sections upstairs – with its new bright interior at 75 Leonard St. is the second business to settle in the renovated Macy’s/Filene’s building following Foodies Urban Market by a month.

. . . .

“We knew this was a community that wanted a bookstore after fighting to try and keep the last one,” said Abouzeid referring to the Charlesbank Bookshop that closed in January 2010. “We wouldn’t have tried this if they community didn’t seem to care.”

And town residents have been eagerly anticipating the opening, many following the daily updates via Twitter and other social media sites.

“All we’ve heard for the last eight months is ‘when are you opening? when are you opening?’” said Abouzeid.

The opening came at an advantageous time as “[w]e really wanted to open this weekend because of Father’s Day and give people an opportunity to buy their summer reading before leaving town [the] schools closing,” said Abouzeid, who along with Crowley, is an author.

. . . .

“E-book sales have flattened, and folks are showing that they prefer to hold a real book and that includes young people that you might not expect. They are on electronic devices all day long, so a book is more relaxing.”

He also spoke of the environment of a book buying experience is heightened by searching for a new book in a store, especially in one that is new to the community.

“Just the colors, the feeling, the atmosphere. You can’t get that shopping online,” said Abouzeid. The staff, who will be making recommendations and emphasizing customer service, will also be a draw for shoppers.

Link to the rest at The Belmontian

PG wishes all new small businesses well. However, he can’t help but wonder whether if the oft-repeated Big Publishing myth that ebook sales have flattened harms the people who put their hard-earned capital into a new business based upon such erroneous information.


11 Comments to “Doors Open at Belmont Books In Center”

  1. Took me jumping to the link, and then to the end of the linked article, to figure out where in the world this is. I guess you’re just supposed to Know.

    • That’s a surprisingly common thing with local press websites. In this case it’s somewhere in the Boston metropolitan area.

  2. I agree with PG. The problem with the “Paper is Back, Indies are back” meme is that it tempts people to risk lots of their hard earned money opening a bookstore that probably won’t fly.

    The bookstore mentioned in the OP was a B. Dalton. Here’s what was written about it in 2009…

    State Representative Will Brownsberger looked into the Charlesbank’s closing […] “It sounded like they’d given it a hard look and really concluded that they couldn’t make money in this location,’’ the Belmont Democrat said. “They’ve been closing smaller stores.’’

    Charlesbank hadn’t been profitable for the past five years, and last year the store had six-figure losses, according to Mary Ellen Keating, a spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble.

    Ok, so they were part of a chain. Maybe things are different now?

    Well, consider Last Word Books in Fort Worth that is closing after only a year. When they started in 2016 the owner was had plenty to say to the local press…

    Books certainly have an enthusiastic cheerleader in Combs, who has wanted to own a bookstore since he was a 6-year-old in Arlington.

    “It just took me years after that to actually get to it,” said Combs, 50, wearing a T-shirt honoring British fantasy author Neil Gaiman.

    Combs, who has self-published two novels, spent 19 years with a medical management company but, after his department was outsourced, he decided to take the plunge and open a store.

    So far, he says, business has been better than expected. “There are some days that are so busy you won’t be able to eat lunch until you get home that night and there’ll be days if you wonder if the rapture has happened and everybody was taken,” he said with a laugh.

    But now he posts this to facebook…

    Sales have steadily declined to the point that it is no longer viable for us to continue the business; therefore, the store will be closing on Sunday, June 18th. We have explored every possible avenue to avoid this, to no avail.

    … and for the local press? He has no comment.

    The sadness, with an inline link to the koolaid he drank, is here…


  3. Was curious where Belmont is located. WikiPedia says it’s a “village” in Eastern Ohio and considered part of the Wheeling, WV metro area. Some interesting stats:

    2000 Census: 532 people, 208 households, and 148 families
    2010 Census: 453 people, 197 households, and 129 families

    So it’s losing population. And not a big population base to start with. Also wondered about the per-capita income, since WV is one of the poorest states.

    This sounds like another small-biz, labor-of-love dream. I wish these booksellers the best of luck, but I wouldn’t invest. Not unless I needed a hell of a tax write-off.

    • See above. In this case Belmont is a suburb of Boston, Northeast of Cambridge & Harvard, so one would think there are some readers in the area.

      The Belmontonian LLC 12 Unity Ave. Belmont, MA 02478

    • The bookstore is located in Belmont, Mass. A town in suburban Boston that is very liberal and very wealthy. You’d think demographics like that would be perfect for a bookstore, but Willow Books in Acton, MA (a town with similar stats to Belmont, if a bit further west) just closed in January after twenty years of operation.

      If I had to guess, I’d say the store in the OP will do decent business but will have issues covering their costs due to the high cost of doing business in the Boston area. But I’ve been wrong before and I certainly wish them luck.

      • The Boston Globe wrote a piece about bookstores appealing to retirees…


        It’s four years old but still has some good points to make…

        some people finish Paz Kaufman’s how-to course with the disappointing realization that owning a store isn’t for them, she said.

        “When people learn that there’s a 5 to 7 percent return on investment that sounds like pretty slow payback, especially when you are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars upfront.”

        The gifts, toys, cards, and nonbook items most stores sell are “much more profitable” than books, she said, adding that the margins on e-books [sic] are “pathetically low.”

    • Oops. My bad. I clicked on a link in the OP that called out area code 614, which is OH. Took it from there. 🙁

      Obviously, far more readers — and ones with money — in the Boston area v. Wheeling!

  4. E-book sales have flattened,

    No, they haven’t. Like PG, I wish them well, but if they based their business plan on bad data, they could be in for a hard time.

    He also spoke of the environment of a book buying experience is heightened by searching for a new book in a store, especially in one that is new to the community.

    [emphasis mine]
    That new store smell will wear off. What replaces it in the long term?

    Good luck, brave soul.

  5. Desmond X. Torres

    I suspect that this is happening much more frequently than the mainstream media is telling us. Not new stores opening, but book stores shuttering.

    There was a bit of a hullaballoo in The Bronx over a new bookstore that was going to open. I just checked its website and it’s still in the ‘planning’ stages. There’s not a single bookstore in The Bronx. Not one.

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