I had a lovely time at Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury, signing copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game. A number of friends stopped by to lend their support, including members of the Myrtle Baptist Church Book Club. I was also delighted at the new acquaintances who purchased the book. I even had a couple of children come up to me, aspiring writers who wanted to know how to get published. I was glad to be able to give them encouragement.
Have you ever wondered how the owners of independent bookstores feel about the pressure they face because of online booksellers and the large chain store with its seemingly endless selection of books, book-related merchandise, and full-service café menu? Many have closed due to their inability to compete. Some of the ones that survive look for creative ways to stay afloat.
Leonard and Clarrissa, the owners of Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury, where I’ll be signing books on May 3rd, have their own way of keeping the customers coming back.
LISA:So many independent bookstores, such as yours find it hard to compete with online bookstores and bookstore chains. Are you challenged by this? How do you keep the customers coming in despite this competition?
FRUGAL BOOKSTORE: Yes we are challenged by it, however, our customer base prefers the experience of patronizing their local bookstore that carries niche genres that a lot of online and mainstream booksellers do not.
LISA: Your slogan is “Changing Minds One Book at a Time.” Please elaborate.
FRUGAL BOOKSTORE: Leonard actually came up with the slogan. It was born out of his experience while incarcerated, each book he read not only helped to change his mind; it also helped him become who he is.
LISA: What are the challenges of husband and wife operating a business together?
FRUGAL BOOKSTORE: As with any relationship whether it is personal or professional there will be disagreements and we won’t always see eye-to-eye but it is important to stay focused and positive, which is what we do.
LISA: What is the future of brick and mortar independent bookstores? Will they continue to exist?
FRUGAL BOOKSTORE: It would be nice to know the answer but there’s really no way for us to know the future of independent bookstore. We only hope that more people will support them as they are an asset to us all.
LISA: Your store seems to be community-oriented. Please explain.
FRUGAL BOOKSTORE: We promote literacy in the community by hosting book signings and book fairs throughout the city. We are also in the process of hosting a spelling bee for students in the near future.
LISA: What makes your bookstore unique? What do you offer that others don’t?
FRUGAL BOOKSTORE: Our selection of books on African American studies, Latino interests, gifts, such as African figurines, soapstone sculptures, framed art, shadow boxes. Also, we provide a welcoming and professional atmosphere that people respect and appreciate.
Next Saturday, May 3rd, I’ll be signing books from 1 to 3 p.m. at Frugal Bookstore, in the Roxbury section of Boston at 306 Martin Luther King Boulevard. The bookstore is located in The Mall of Roxbury. I spoke to co-owner Clarrissa a couple of days ago to confirm all of the arrangements. I’ll be at a tabe in front of the bookstore with my pen ready to sign copies of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game. She said the mall tends to be heavily trafficked in the early afternoon hours, so I should expect to sign quite a few books. As it turns out, another author will be signing in front of the store at the same time. I understand she’s flying in from Maryland, so between the two of us we should be able to draw a lot of customers. If you’re in the Boston area, I look forward to seeing you there!