Considering a Facelift at Blarney Books, Port Fairy

We have been asking ourselves this question for the last five years, but I think we are reaching the decision that we probably should.  The front of our building isn’t very welcoming, looking more like a book warehouse than a character-filled secondhand bookshop.  We have a problem in that council doesn’t want us to change the appearance of the front (it was once Port Fairy’s Masonic Lodge, and the Heritage people want to keep Port Fairy somewhat in the past).  Here’s what it looks like, for those of you who might have missed earlier postings:

Blarney Books front of building
Blarney Books front of building
The current entrance-way is to the right, up a small set of steps, through a bit of a courtyard and in the side of the building.  This takes you into our new art space.
Blarney Books entrance
Blarney Books entrance
It doesn’t make it very clear about what’s inside.  Many people have asked if it is a library, despite the A-frame which mentions “Quality Secondhand Books”.
So we are thinking it’s time for a new front door, with a ramp leading up to it, and perhaps a enclosed area that might be able to accommodate some display windows for the times when we’re not open, so potential customers can at least understand that there are books for sale behind that huge brick wall!  Council is kind enough to grant us a new front door (at last application anyway).  So from that top photo, the new doors (double, wrought-iron, we are thinking) would be in the middle, where the four windows are now.
With a new front door, we would then close off the courtyard at the front and extend it a little at the back, to make it a contained area where we could have outdoor artworks, sculptures etc., and perhaps a few tables for tea and coffee.  And once the doors are in, make a more attractive garden in the front.
We have a hard enough time being down the road and around the corner from the main street of town, so it’s important that some changes are soon made.  With my mantra of “When the kids are in school” comes the fact that the first will be in school in 2011, and by that time I wanted the shop pretty much properly organised so I was able to just ‘be there’ for the river of customers that would then start flowing with the increased and regular opening hours!
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  • You’re right: the building doesn’t send a clear bookstore message. Also, in general, things we see every day easily become mere background, so a new look (keeping, of course, your old name-message) can remind people who drive by daily that there’s a reason to stop and come in. Best wishes!

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  • I’m wondering if the bricks you are going to be removing can perhaps be sold to recoup some of your expenditures. I’m reminded of a friend that wanted to replace his old kitchen cabinets. Sold them through Craigslist (an online advertising venue in the U.S.). He received an offer of $250 dollars and the buyer came and removed them from the house. Otherwise he would have had to remove and dispose of them himself to install the new ones.

    Otherwise I think the old bricks could easily and tastefully be incorporated in the landscaping.

    Also, regarding being down the street and around the corner, don’t forget Nora’s suggestion of Low Cost Advertising to Nab Pedestrians –

    • Bricks work very nicely for garden edging or you can even use them as pavers. Laying them as pavers for a patio area isn’t particularly hard to do, as you can do them mortarless if you do an interlocking pattern.

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    • Yes, thanks, Prying & Nora! We’ve already used some of the bricks we’ve punched out of the back as pathways in our garden… so I expect any more bricks removed will have the same end/new beginning.
      And yes, I’ve often thought of Nora’s low-cost advertising… but haven’t yet given it a go. Perhaps over the summer/tourist season.

      • This was sent in by Paul Perry:
        When it is impossible to put up the sinage one wants, a succesful compromise
        can be to use a banner or flag.
        It can have the secondary use of indicating when the store is open.
        I found a large flag reading
        hung from the awning to help, when I had a shop on a main road once.
        Incidentally my mother lives in Port Fairy! but I am very rarely there, since I am open seven days a week here in Melbourne 😀
        She keeps telling me to visit a bookshop in Koroit..

        AllSorts Books 275 High Street Northcote Victoria 3070

        • Hi Paul – we do use flags (three tall purple flags with nothing printed on them, but I think BOOKS on them would work well… I’ll talk to the dressmaker next door!)… I trust you’ll pop by if you’re ever around! The bookshop in Koroit was fabulous – it was one of my favourites – but I think they’ve just about shut down now. (Does your Mum know us?) They didn’t get a lot of passing foot traffic in the hills… And we’ll be in Northcote for Christmas (three sisters live in your ‘hood) so I’ll keep an eye out for your shop! Are you in competition with The Book Grocer?

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  • Location! Location! Location! It applies to used books stores as much as any other business – and maybe moreso!

    When you say “We have a hard enough time being down the road and around the corner from the main street of town, so it’s important that some changes are soon made.” you seem to be already aware of a major problem.

    I would be looking for a better location with a supportive landlord or start planning an extensive/expensive advertising campaign.

    One of the sound rules of business is to lump your advertising revenues and your rental expenses together – if they come to $3000 monthly then you can pay either $500 for advertising and $2500 for rent or $500 for rent and $2500 for advertising.

    In most areas a high visibility location is worth $2000 or more a month in advertising and makes it easier for both buyers and sellers to find you when they think of books.

    Good luck.

    • Thanks for that, George! For that piece of input, we’ve decided to invest in an on-going newspaper ad. Our Art Comp (Blarney’s Biblio-Art Awards) did come under our advertising budget, and from that perspective we found it successful. Hopefully there are more people aware of and talking about our shop now…

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  • Fortunately, Port Fairy is so small that it would be impossible to hide a bookshop from the locals – but on the other hand, as a tourist destination, you really have to get visible to the visitors as well.
    I’m astounded that it was a Freemason hall though, seeing that you are smack in the middle of the most Catholic Irish section of Australia!

    • Paul, you’d be amazed – there are still locals who have not found or been into our shop. I think people get stuck in ruts often, and if you’re not on their ‘beat’ they’ll miss you completely.

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