It’s funny – when I was packing up our 20,000 books and all of the
associated detritus that collected along with them over the past five
years, I swore that had to be the worst part of the move. Before that,
when I was pulling down pink plywood, plastering over holes, sheet rocking
and painting, I pretty much figured that was the worst part. It should
surprise no one then, given my track record, that the worst part is the
interminable unboxing and reshelving of books. Adding to the
unpleasantness is the fact that we’ve decided to rationalize (that’s a
euphemism for make some vague sense out of) our internet cataloging
system. This brings me, somewhat obliquely, to my first bits of advice:
1 – Make sure your system of arranging books that you sell online makes
sense and is scalable (not in the arranging them in the form of a ziggurat
sense, but in the functions well under large numbers sense) ; it’s going
to be a pain to fix five years down the line
(you’ll notice that much of this “advice” is of the “I climbed a water
tower and fell off and now travel high schools telling kids not to climb
water towers” variety).
2 – Don’t put a box of books in your basement unless you’re pretty sure
you want to carry them back upstairs, load them into a truck and move them
across town. Also, don’t put 200 of these in your basement.
3 – Be organized in your move – stack sections together and in the order
you’d like to use them. I actually thought of this one beforehand, but
I’m constitutionally incapable of this level of organization – if you can
do it though, your present self will owe your past self a debt of
gratitude (as a friend of mine likes to say).
All of which adds up to the fact, some may say obvious fact, that moving
something as heavy as a used bookstore should not be done without the best
of reasons. Ours were complicated – rising rents, static foot traffic
(static at a bad level – the U.S. obsession with growth has made static a
bad word when it could be lovely. Why does no one ever say statically
good?), and a commercial district that has begun to favor restaurants.
Now, I love restaurants as much as the next guy who can’t afford to go to
them very often, but a certain percentage of restaurants in a commercial
district is pretty much a death knell for traditional retail. The hours
are just too different for them to work together – it’s possible all those
mom and pop shops should just be open from 5 PM – 12 PM, who knows. I’ve
worked in too many restaurants though – those hours will really mess with
So with rents and changing dynamics, it was time to go – luckily we
actually learned a few things since our first opening.
Don’t settle for two many “this should be ok”s when choosing a space. If
you leave yourself enough time to look, you should be able to find the
right space (this goes for opening the first time as well, of course).
Our first shop was a good size but had too many strangely shaped spaces
and quirks that we were paying for – we also were about 200 feet from
where we needed to be and when those pedantic jackasses say that the three
most important concerns in retail are location, location, location,
they’re not JUST being annoying.
Try not to cut too many corners – this can be difficult when working on a
shoestring budget, but try to do things properly or not do them at all.
Half-assing a few things here and there (e.g. buying an area rug to
disguise an ugly floor instead of replacing the floor) is appropriate,
but, at least for me, these half measures get a grip on you after a while
and start being too obvious – eventually the enterprise takes on the dull
sheen of half-assedness. If you think the color of your walls is ok,
paint them the color you really want, you won’t regret it (joyfully, the
pink walls at our new store left me no half option on this one).
And oh yeah, lift with your legs.
Here’s a few pictures as order begins to emerge from the chaos:
Aisle one of internet books in the basement. We enlisted the help of
local street urchins to shelve the books.
Aisle 2. Anyone looking to purchase 500 slightly used boxes?
Street urchins are also useful for book cataloging.
Not so much for the hauling of heavy boxes as my brother apparently notices.
This last is from our moving fundraiser. This, which I must admit I was
skeptical about, turned out great. We had a bunch of silent auctions,
collected donated items from local friendly businesses (and gave them
great advertising – or tried), local urchins ran a hot dog cart, and we
had a keg of beer and a band (pictured – if you have kids at your party,
get a guy with a pink suit, they went nuts). All of our intensive studies
show that customers purchase at least 30% more when drinking.
— Pazzo Books 4268 Washington St. Roslindale, MA 02131 pazzobooks.com 617-323-2919