Saturday, June 27, 2009

And How Long Have You Been Here?

We get that question every single day, sometimes from someone that lives only a block or 2 away. And starting next week we get to change our answer! Yes, July 1 marks our birthday... or in the case of 2009 our re-birthday. So time for some nostalgia and thank yous!
Our first stop on this trip is to June 2005. We signed a lease... now what? I do believe we muttered those exact words a few times that first week in June. We slowly began to move things into the store.... including a bed for 2 year old Aaron to take naps on in the office! W had no plan... I KNOW a pox on our heads for attempting to start a business with out a plan (wanna know a secret... we still have no plan!). Things began to take shape. We hit flea markets, library sales, ran ads in the paper.. anything to get books to fill the shelves. (and they were pretty empty when we first opened)

Here are some pictures from year 1:

In years 2 & 3 we kinda sorta had things figured out, worked out some kinks, bought less books (more trade) and bought more book shelves. We started working with some community groups and hosted one or 2 events. These 2 years were a real struggle... trying to find our niche, reach out to new and old customers, working with other merchants to bring more people to town. We finally were getting to be a part of the town when we spearheaded the Lovin' Lititz Every 2nd project. So here are some pictures from years 2 & 3 (notice one of us lost some baby fat!)

And THEN we got this box in the mail in June 2008.... a birthday present of sorts.... IndieBound was born, and so were we, again! We've blogged before (here, here and here) about how re-joining the ABA reignited our passion for this store, so I won't bore you with the giddiness of it all again. In our 4th year we truly embraced the indie spirit. We hosted more and more events with and without authors. As you can see from our website we now have something for everyone as far as events go each week at the store. We are so excited as we enter year five that it's hard to contain our selves.. well okay, maybe Sam is the only one that needs containing! Here are some pictures from the past year.... and don't forget to check out our YouTube channel for some great Aaron videos!

Here is the news story about us entering year five that we sent to local press... the likeliness of them picking it up for print is about as likely as Sam ever dunking a basketball... so we thought we'd include it here, as part of our birthday thank you's. Because without you all, our parents, our friends, our customers (near and far), we would NOT be celebrating another wonderful expanding year in our dear little store. THANK YOU for making Aaron's Books a spunky little indie!

(warning, this is long)

Aaron’s Books Celebrates Entering Fifth Year in Lititz

With More Books and More Community Events

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not fooling a soul.” – Neil Gaiman, American Gods

While the national bookstore chains struggle in today’s economic climate, Lancaster County’s own independent Aaron’s Books continues to thrive in historic downtown Lititz and is even expanding as it enters its fifth year.

Founded as a small, family-owned, used bookstore in 2005, Aaron’s Books has become a fixture in the Lititz community and a valued source for both new and used quality books. Since opening, the store has more than doubled its bookshelf space and added a number of new featured sections, including Civil War and local history. The store also launched an online sales website through agreement with a national wholesaler, where customers can find more than one million books, CDs, and movies to ship anywhere in the nation.

“It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come in four years,” said co-owner Todd Dickinson. “Everything has improved. We have so many more books, better quality and selection, community events almost every week, and Lititz has really embraced us.”

“One of the biggest changes over the last year is our expansion of new books,” said co-owner Sam Droke-Dickinson. “We now feature newly released books in every genre, and we can special order almost any book at a discount for our customers. It’s all about being of service to our community and providing what they need.”

The store was named for Aaron, the youngest member of the family. He was 2½ years old when the store opened and will turn seven this fall. “He’s really grown up in the store, and of course he loves reading,” said Sam. “People around Lititz don’t always know my name, but everyone seems to know me as Aaron’s mom.”

As with any independent bookstore, the store’s focus is on community involvement – providing goods and services that enhance the quality of life in Lititz as well as throughout Lancaster County. Both Todd and Sam were instrumental in establishing the wildly successful event “Lovin’ Lititz Every 2nd,” where all the downtown businesses are open late the second Friday of each month, and the town is full of music, food, shopping, and neighbors gathering to enjoy their town.

Aaron’s Books is open many evenings for free community events. Recent discussions hosted by the store have included exploring the religious themes of the bestselling novel The Shack with Lancaster Theological Seminary professor Dr. Bruce Epperly and possible solutions to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur with authors of the first and only book that gives a comprehensive look at the history and American involvement in that region of Africa. The local chapter of the Society for Creative Anachronism meets monthly at Aaron’s and other community groups use the store as an informal gathering spot.

Aaron’s Books has two ongoing book groups, Sunday Books & Brunch – featuring new women authors, and Crazy for Cozies – which highlights the popular genre of “cozy” mysteries; and once a month teachers from the Children’s Corner at Moravian Manor come to Aaron’s to present a story time and crafts for pre-schoolers. Aaron, age 6, starts his own book group this summer for young readers to discuss popular chapter book series. Throughout the summer, Aaron’s Books also hosts a monthly “Family Fun Night” with live entertainment for children of all ages, crafts, games, snacks, and discounts on purchases of children’s books. As with most events at the store, the book groups and family events are free and open to the public.

Over the past four years, Aaron’s Books has brought dozens of local, regional and national authors to Lititz. “One of our great events was with Amy King. We had her the month her book The Dust of 100 Dogs was released, and now it has gone on to receive national recognition by being nominated for books of the year by the Young Adult Library Services Association,” remembered Todd. Another featured writer, fantasy writer Gregory Frost, (recently nominated for the David Gemmel Legend Award, and author of “one of the best fantasy novels of 2008” by The Library Journal) promoted his popular novel Shadowbridge at Aaron’s shortly after its release. Lancaster County favorite Ken Munro, author of the Sammy & Brian mysteries, makes Aaron’s Books a regular stop on his book tours, and young readers continue to flock to meet him. And Aaron’s proudly hosted the book release party and first signing for the book Lititz by local historian Kathy Blankenbiller.

Aaron’s Books has received recognition on the regional and national level by the American Booksellers Association for its innovative approach to promoting shopping locally and the use of video and social media to reach beyond Lancaster County. Videos and advertising campaigns from Aaron’s Books have been featured on the website, and mentioned in several national publications. Aaron’s Books also provides featured book reviews in Fine Living Lancaster Magazine, on the monthly IndieNext list, and on the website.

The next several months Aaron’s Books will be hosting more national best-selling authors. On August 14, members of the Liar’s Club, a group of prominent Philadelphia-based writers, that includes Gregory Frost, Jonathan Maberry, William Lashner, Jon McGoran, Marie Lamba, and Kelly Simmons, among others, will meet at Aaron’s Books to celebrate the importance of independent bookstores and to promote Second Friday in Lititz. Also coming in August is celebrated author MaryAnn McFadden, who went from self-publishing to internationally sold rights by a major publishing house in just two years. Aaron’s will also continue to host local authors at weekly and monthly free public events.

In November, Aaron’s Books will host its “First Annual Kid-Lit Festival,” featuring two days of regional and national children’s authors sharing their work and leading workshops with young readers and aspiring writers.

Core to its mission, Aaron’s Books gives back to the community by selling books at events for local and statewide nonprofits, and donating proceeds to that group. Recent events have benefitted such organizations as the Lititz Public Library, the Lancaster Literary Guild, the Susquehanna Sustainable Business Network, the Montessori Academy of Lancaster, Disciples United Community Church, and the Pennsylvania Downtown Center. “It helps us raise our visibility,” said Todd, “but it’s much more important to be of assistance to those groups in the community that do so much for all of us.”

In 2008, Aaron’s Books hosted a weeklong event “Lititz Loves Reading,” featuring the regional premier of the PBS documentary “Paperback Dreams,” to raise funds for the Lititz Public Library. For the past two years, Aaron’s Books has been a sponsor of the Lititz Rec Center’s Youth Triathalon. Aaron’s Books has also been a site for canned goods and monetary collections for the Warwick Community Chest.

As a former seventh grade teacher, Sam knew from the start that one important priority for Aaron’s Books is to support local teachers. The store offers special discounts to teachers for used books to help them stock their classrooms, and it is working on additional programs to make new books more readily available. “We developed a successful partnership with a private school in the area to offer book fairs and school library discounts, and we’re hoping to replicate that model in other public and private schools throughout the region,” according to Sam. “We would love to partner with every school because we believe a love of reading is at the core of both a quality education, which then benefits the entire community.” Aaron’s Books recently hosted a book fair for the Montessori Academy of Lancaster, raising funds for books for their new elementary classrooms.

Aaron’s Books tries to find a home for every book, and one effective way of encouraging reading while also handling overflow is through the store’s popular semi-annual book giveaway. Each time, thousands of books are specially identified as free for members of the community to take and enjoy. This has allowed hundreds of neighbors and friends of Aaron’s Books to enjoy even more books than they are already. “Anything we can do to encourage reading in our community also benefits us and the entire town,” Sam said. “We have so many neighbors that enjoy a good book, and we want to do whatever we can to spread that love of books.”

“Two things happen every day at our store that make the day worthwhile,” said Todd. “First, a little boy or girl will get a big smile in their face as soon as they come in our front door, and they’ll take off for the train table back in the play room. Second, a new visitor will walk in about 10 steps, realize that the store is far larger than it looks from the street, and say ‘Wow, I had no idea it was so big; I’ll be coming here a lot.”

Sam agreed, “Our biggest challenge is making the front of the store appealing enough that people will come in from the sidewalk the first time. Once they’re inside, and they see how much is here, they always come back.”

Many of the store’s best customers are visitors who come to Lititz once a year and have added Aaron’s Books to their list of “must visit” locations in beautiful downtown Lititz. “We’re blessed to be in this town that so many people want to see,” Todd said. “It is truly a special place, and we are proud of the contributions we can make to help it flourish.”

Sam recently attended a conference of professionals from around Pennsylvania who are trying to strengthen their downtowns. “They all want what Lititz has,” she said on her return. “They want an attractive, friendly place where visitors can walk around and enjoy themselves, with unique, locally-owned shops that provide character and charm, not the same chain stores you can find everywhere.”

“And they all want a bookstore,” she added. “Managers from four different parts of the state asked me if we’d like to open a store in their town, but Lititz is where we’re happy, and we know the people are happy we’re here. We want to be here for a long time to come.”

Aaron’s Books will celebrate its birthday with a big party during the Second Friday festivities on July 10, including cake, prizes for kids and adults, their semi-annual free book giveaway, and live music from acoustic guitarist Ben Pierson.

1 comment:

  1. You guys are wonderful. Here's to decades of business at Aaron's! See you soon & Happy Birthday!