When Melissa DeMotte started thinking about opening a bookstore in Coeur d’Alene, she knew she needed a savvy business plan.
The avid reader had a soft spot for independent bookstores, but her finance background made her a realist. Studies indicate that only a small percentage of Americans regularly buy books. And many of those purchases are made online.
So DeMotte, 51, did her research. She attended an American Booksellers Association conference on opening a store. She worked with a nationally known consultant from Florida. And she networked with other independent bookstore owners.
After two years of work, DeMotte says she’s got a store plan that fits Coeur d’Alene. The Well-Read Moose is on track to open in late May or early June in Riverstone.
The 2,700-square-foot store will sell books, greeting cards and educational games. Patrons will be able to linger over coffee and pastries in the store’s cafe. DeMotte also will offer beer and wine sales and an area that book clubs can reserve for meetings.
“I thought we needed a community bookstore,” DeMotte said. “I took the leap and felt that I would be the one to bring that to Coeur d’Alene.”
It’s a challenging time to get into the business, confirmed Thom Chambliss, executive director for the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association.
Fifteen to 20 years ago, people opened bookstores because they loved books, and that was enough, Chambliss said. Now it takes a blend of passion and financial acumen to be successful.
“You have to be an extremely good businessperson to keep a bookstore alive in this country,” he said. “The ones who make it are very serious and are willing to put their financial futures on the line to make it work.”
DeMotte said she was ready to take that risk. The Well-Read Moose reflects a midlife career switch for the former finance executive, who spent 15 years at a California firm that specializes in community development loans for nonprofits. She’s been telecommuting from North Idaho since 2005.
Though she enjoyed that work, DeMotte said, she wanted a job that connected with her passion for reading.
“I thought I had one big career move left,” she said. “I liked the idea of putting books in the hands of people, especially children. … There’s something about helping them become lifelong readers.”
DeMotte used a Small Business Administration loan to help finance the store’s inventory of 15,000 books. She’ll carry a large selection of children’s and young adult literature plus a wide array of adult books, including Northwest and local authors. The store’s website also will offer e-books.
DeMotte settled on the store’s size after poring over Kootenai County’s demographics with the consultant.
They looked at income levels, educational attainment and support for charities, the arts and the library system. The number of local residents who listed “some college education” was key. People with higher education are more likely to be readers, DeMotte said.
She also gleaned ideas from other bookstores. Sales of beer and wine have been a popular addition at other independent bookstores. And they jibed with DeMotte’s vision for her store as a place where friends could meet for a drink or parents could relax for 90 minutes while their teens watched a movie at the nearby Regal Cinemas in Riverstone.
“Our lives are all so hectic,” she said. “I wanted a place where people could connect.”