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Friday, August 14, 2015

Used bookstore, threat or menace?

by Jamie Lutton

I found out that not every Chamber of Commerce in the Greater Seattle area like the idea of having a used bookstore in the their neighborhood.

I was discouraged directly via email by a member of the Chamber of Commerce of a that is community part of the greater Seattle a few days ago, as a follow up to an email inquiry I had made.

My company was considered too great a threat to the neighborhood's new book shop, and besides that I am an ''outsider' This is how it went: This Chamber of Commerce of this neighborhood was emailed by me asking if they thought that a used bookshop similar to the one I run and own on Capitol Hill would be welcome in their neighborhood. I was hoping for leads on buildings or landlords who would welcome a tenant like me. Also, wanted to be 'friendly' and get to meet the Chamber of Commerce. I got a swift reply back saying that the Counsel member had been in my bookstore.and that because they had a new bookstore, they did not need a used bookstore: here is the reply I got,verbatim with the names of the location and the agent redacted.

"I’m not sure how much you know about our local bookstore, but I would suggest you talk to (xxx) the current owners. You’ve probably met (xx) They know the business and the xxxx very well. While they don’t have a used book section, they do rare book searches for customers and have a very loyal client base for that service. XXXX is masterful at searching and tracking down books for people. 
As a resident, you’re aware of the on-going efforts to keep people shopping locally, i.e. X Books  has worked hard to promote that philosophy, establishing long-standing relationships with the schools, non-profit organizations and the residents. It has been very supportive of community and the community is very loyal to X Books."


So, basically.....go away. We don't want you here! you are not one of us. My business partner, John Watkins, helped draft a satirical response:
"Dear Xxx, 
Thank you for your response encouraging me to start a used bookstore in XXX. Yes, I have met X, and liked her a lot. I hope I can have as good a relationship with her as I do with other booksellers in the area. 
I'm encouraged to hear that X Books has a good relationship with the community, and hope to be at least as warmly welcomed by other as I have been by you. Chambers of Commerce typically do welcome new businesses, but I'm sure I'll have to win the loyalty of new customers by providing good service and filling needs not currently filled.
As an xxxx resident, of course I want to help people shop locally. That's why I'd like to start a store that, as you point out, is in a niche not currently filled. Thank you for confirming that Xbooks does not have a used book section. I'm sure customers will be delighted to be able to buy out of print books off the shelf rather than waiting for them to be ordered, which, as you have pointed out, they must now do.
You said the community is very loyal to xxxx books. That seems to imply that I should locate my store close to it. This is the sort of valuable advice I came to the chamber to seek. The suggestion is welcome.

Thanks,Jamie"


This is what I got back:

"Jamie,
                I’m afraid you may have misunderstood my note.  I was neither encouraging or discouraging you from starting a bookstore on the Island.   That is a decision you must make.  I was also remiss in not including information about sources of used books on the Island.  I was thinking in terms of X Books, but after I sent you the note I remembered that the (name of the local thrift shop) sells used books and a great many of them.   They even sell them on E-Bay.   Additionally, the Friends of the Library has quarterly sales of used books and raises  quite a bit of money at those sales.    I’m not sure how large the niche for used books is on the Island but there are already two well established sources for them and sales from both sources benefit Island non-profit organizations.   
                  I apologize for any misunderstanding.
Xxx"

So, I note again that she came into the Capitol Hill Twice Sold Tales and met me, looked around.

I jokingly surmised Xxx must have though I was a "lesbian, anarchist or a socialist" something
threatening to xxxx middle class values, and both prospects xxx felt were a menace to her neighborhood.

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