Most retailers are quite familiar with “shelf talkers”—printed cards attached to a store shelf to call customer attention to a particular product displayed on that shelf. In the book world, and particularly at Gramercy Books, our shelf talkers are hand-written descriptions of books we love.
Here’s one by Gramercy Manager and Buyer Debra Boggs on John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany, one she deems as Irving’s best: “If I could only take one book to a desert island, it would probably be this one. What I want from a novel is first a great story and then nothing short of some insights to the meaning of life.” Miriam McCarty, a Capital University student studying Environmental Science and Chemistry, and the staffer who creates all of our beautiful chalk displays, says this about The Tempest: “It is hard to choose just one Shakespeare play, but The Tempest takes the cake for creativity. Prospero is funny and sassy and his countless adventures will never leave you bored.” A favorite of Amanda Sorrell’s, a Creative Writing and Religion major at Capital, is Wallace Shawn’s The Fever: “It's a 68-page monologue; I sat down and read it in like two hours and then just sat for another two hours and thought about EVERYTHING. It fundamentally challenges world views.” Capital University Philosophy major Daniel Pawlowski writes that Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson is “a gripping historical account of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Great for both history buffs and fans of true crime.”
Now entering our second year, Gramercy Books’ “find it here” mantra couldn’t be more appropriate. While we carry bestsellers and all the recent releases, like other independent booksellers across the country we also focus on curating inventory that allow customers to discover both emerging authors and unexpected titles. Our shelf talkers, written by a knowledgeable staff—all passionate about books—help customers “find it here.” As Gramercy’s founder and owner, I have my own book tower of recommendations, and customers frequently ask me about these books. I can’t tell you how many times the books on my tower, and those advocated by staff, walk out the door. This personal relationship with customers makes for a unique customer experience.
The words on our Gramercy bookmark promise a range of experiences for each person every day, from adventure to inspiration, from rhyme to news, from comfort to community. We deliver those experiences day in and day out. Another way we build relationships with our customers is with events that stimulate conversation. In 2017, Gramercy hosted seventy-six unique events that brought people together for author talks and signings, poetry readings, songwriter performances, facilitated monthly book group discussions, author festivals, even a June culinary event complete with a mobile wood-fired pizza oven and forty happy foodies tasting a variety of prepared-on-the-spot pizzas right outside the store and a December ticketed author luncheon just down the street.
Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, who co-owns Greenlight Bookstore in two Brooklyn neighborhoods, notes, "a bookstore is a really unique kind of space where people from different walks of life can cross paths . . . where people can come in and start to have conversations.”
In January alone, seven events at Gramercy are sure to attract a diverse crowd and encourage dialogue:
- Documentary photographer Lauren Pond’s discussion of her book, Test of Faith, about a family of Pentecostal serpent handlers in West Virginia;
- Author Curtis Schieber’s new book about the rise, fall and triumphant return of brewing in Ohio’s capital in Columbus Beer: Recent Brewing and Deep Roots;
- A book discussion of Jennifer Egan’s highly anticipated novel, Manhattan Beach, set in Brooklyn during the Great Depression and facilitated by Capital University English professor Bryan Hurt;
- A tour through the world of comic shops with award-winning Columbus Dispatch business reporter Dan Gearino as he discusses his new book, Comic Shop: The Retail Mavericks Who Gave Us a New Geek Culture;
- An evening of story and song and the latest in “rock and roll literature” with singer, songwriter, producer Patrick Buzzard, founding guitarist of the Top 40 band Saving Jane (Pat is a co-host with Mark Dantzer, Chuck Johnson, and Ryan Smith of the podcast, Rock and Roll Book Club);
- Seven essential leadership lessons to be learned from Victor Prince, author of The Camino Way: Lessons in Leadership from a Walk Across Spain;
- A reading by poet Steve Abbott from his latest collection, A Green Line Between Green Fields.
Joyce Meskis, longtime owner of Tattered Cover in Denver, recently sold her highly regarded store after more than forty years at the helm. "There's no question the bookseller plays an important role in putting books and ideas and people together," Meskis says. “And every person who works here, whether it's in the shipping department, whether it's out on the sales floor, whether it's crunching numbers in the back room, they all play an important role in that exchange of ideas."
Shelf talkers are one way a bookseller can convey the magic of a book to a curious customer. And sometimes an eye-catching quote provides a broader message. Inside Gramercy Books, there’s a visually prominent, curved soffit that connects the adult and children’s sections of the store. I had the pleasure of spending a day with acclaimed author Jacqueline Woodson when she came to Bexley in December of 2016, just twelve days before we opened Gramercy’s doors for the first time. Jacqueline and I found a line in her National Book Award-winning memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, that spoke to Gramercy’s concept to “find it here,” and to the fact that a world can be discovered in a single book you can hold in your hand.
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.