Gramercy Books turns one on December 12th!
I’m often asked about this journey, about how I got from the dream of owning and operating an indie bookstore to building it from scratch. The short answer: planning. About three years to be exact. After researching bookstores across the country either in person or online, and learning about the elements that produce successful bookstores, I developed my own vision for the store: a warm, welcoming venue for booklovers to gather, greeted by a knowledgeable staff, surrounded by well-curated books and gifts, and inspired by ongoing events featuring authors, poets, songwriters and book discussions. A place of discovery. A place we connect with our community and have a relationship with our customers. To add to the overall Gramercy experience, I wanted the bookstore to include a café and we were able to offer a second location for the popular Kittie’s café and bakery of German Village. In a nutshell, my desire was for Gramercy Books to provide the kind of experience people wanted to have, and wanted to keep returning to.
I’m happy to report that in these twelve months, Gramercy Books has become a destination for central Ohioans with customers coming from not just our Bexley neighborhood, but from Columbus and most of its suburbs. Reaching this milestone is the perfect reason to review our first year and see what we’ve accomplished. Here’s what we found:
- Strong customer satisfaction with two-thirds of purchases coming from repeat visitors;
- Ninety percent of store shoppers leaving with the book they came to buy;
- Consistent five-star reviews posted by bookstore visitors on Google and Facebook;
- A children’s book section attracting kids and parents alike, along with area educators (who receive a 20% discount), and bringing in about a third of our revenue.
- A growing community connection. Since Gramercy launched its e-newsletter in February, nearly 3,500 people have signed up, with hundreds joining each month.
Gramercy Books has been open seven days a week since December 12, 2016. Our ongoing event programming began at a Grand Opening Weekend last January, where we featured talks by authors of adult fiction, poetry, and children’s books, and a musical performance by Songs at the Center artists. Experientially driven, we’ve hosted seventy-five unique events (the vast majority held at the store) during the ten months from the Grand Opening through November 30th. Throughout this year, Gramercy Books has partnered with many in the community: Bexley City Schools, Bexley Public Library, Capital University, Community Shelter Board, Drexel Theater, House of Toast poetry group, Mid-Ohio Foodbank, My Special Word Foundation, Ohio State University, Songs at the Center, and Giuseppe’s Ritrovo.
Among those featured at book talks and readings in our first year are acclaimed authors RL Stine, Will Hillenbrand, Lee Martin, Marcia Butler, Bryan Hurt, Kory Stamper, Joselin Linder, Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Margot Singer, Gabe Habash, Nick White, Donald Ray Pollock, Kristen Lepionka, Julia Keller, Jeannie Vanasco, Tamara Bundy, Craig McDonald, and Robert Olmstead; and lauded poets Maggie Smith, Kathy Fagan, Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib, Mimi Chenfeld, Michael J. Rosen, Hannah Stephenson, Peter Kahn, David Baker, Sharon Draper, Amit Majmudar, Scott Woods, Jeremy Glazier, Kaveh Akbar, Darren Demarre, Paige Lewis, and Ruth Awad, along with local poetry troupe Concrete Wink and members of the House of Toast poetry group.
Gramercy Book Club, which meets monthly, pairs a recently released book with an expert facilitator, drawing crowds from twenty to forty-five. From an exploration of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Underground Railroad, facilitated by Ohio State University black history professor Hasan Jeffries, to JD Vance’s bestselling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, facilitated by poverty expert Michael Wilcos, discussions have been lively and informative. We have been fortunate to have WOSU book critic Kassie Rose facilitate several book clubs this year and hope she’ll continue to do so going forward.
Special events have included a middle grade author festival, a cookbook conversation with Columbus culinary expert Jim Budros culminating in a cooking demonstration for attendees outside the store (where Jim parked his mobile wood-fired pizza oven), readings by a group of renowned poets that honored the 100th birthday of Gwendolyn Brooks, and a Local Author Festival and sidewalk signing for 60 Columbus-area writers over two weekends in August. With the addition of ongoing Songwriter Spotlights (Arkadiy Gips, Sally Fingerett, Eric Gnezda, Keith Larsen and Parker MacDonell), storytelling has been at the heart of the experience found at Gramercy Books.
To cap this year’s events, a special ticketed luncheon is being held for the launch of New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Chiaverini’s newest novel, Enchantress of Numbers. Chiaverini's exclusive Columbus appearance takes place at Giuseppe’s Ritrovo on December 7th at noon.
And to celebrate our birthday, the store invites the public to join us on December 12th for a day that will include cookies, punch, and door prizes. Also that day, the store will have a special surprise for you, our customers, as a thank you for your loyal support.
As we consistently attract a broad attendance at so many of our store events, the American bookseller community and publishing industry has begun to take notice. Gramercy Books calls on the community to continue to be part of its gathering place for discovery, conversation and inspiration. One year in, this singular bookstore is just getting started.
Written by Linda Kass
About the author: I began my career as a magazine writer and correspondent for regional and national publications and am now an assistant editor for Narrative, an online literary magazine. My debut novel, Tasa’s Song, was inspired by my mother’s early life in eastern Poland during the Second World War. It won a Bronze Medal for Historical Fiction from the Independent Publisher Award Program and was a 2016 Foreword INDIES Award Finalist. I am also the proud owner of Gramercy Books, central Ohio’s newest indie bookstore!
Learn more about me on my personal website.