I’m a pretty independent sort. I don’t follow fads, my novels are published by independent presses and I write about adventurers who march to the beat of their own unconventional drummers. I'm so independent that, with my husband, I own an independent bookstore, The Well Red Coyote in Sedona, Arizona.
The Well Red Coyote is a great store, if I do say so myself — voted Best Bookstore in Sedona for five years in a row, every year we’ve been in business. What we've created is more than merely a store that sells books, but a real community gathering spot. All of the fiction authors who appear in our store present writing workshops, and our nonfiction authors offer seminars on their books’ subjects. We also offer live music concerts, everything from blues and rock, to inspirational and Native American flute. All always free. This imaginative approach has worked well for us — turnouts for our author events are mostly exceptionally good.
Yet even in an offbeat place like Sedona, independence is becoming an endangered species. Despite their vocal support, we're losing some of our old customers to online sellers.
I hear the same story from booksellers all over the country. It isn’t just bookstores that are suffering, either, but independent stores of all kinds. Stores with character and charm, which lend distinction to their communities, are just disappearing. Everywhere. There are a few of us hanging on out there, mavericks on the road to big-box Sameville. But it’s a struggle, especially in this punitive economy.
The recent loss of so many independent bookstores concerns me the most, not just as a fellow bookseller, but an author. From the author’s perspective, there’s something to be said for every form of bookselling. But most mid-list authors, and those who began in the mid-list, will say their careers depend on the hand selling of independent booksellers around the country.
What will happen to mid-list authors when independent booksellers aren’t around anymore to recommend them to their customers? And, readers, won’t some of you miss that service?
Now there’s a way that customers everywhere can save the beloved stores in their communities. The campaign is called “The 3/50 Project: Saving the Brick and Mortars Our Nation is Built On.” The Project 3/50 asks everyone to think about three businesses in their communities that they would hate to see close. Then it challenges them to spend $50 a month combined in those three businesses. That’s not $50 more than they’re asked to spend, it’s the same $50 they’re spending in corporate-owned stores. It’s money they’ve already allotted in their monthly budgets.
The Project 3/50 tells us that if only half the employed population spent $50 each month in locally owned businesses, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. That’s billion, with a B. For every $100 spent in locally owned independent stores, $68 returns to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. If you spend that in a national chain, only $43 remains locally. Spend it online, and absolutely nothing comes home. And online sellers usually pay no local sales tax, which most communities need to support schools and other local services.
It only takes one person to get the ball rolling in every community. I know which three stores I want to help save in my town. How about you?
Causes Kris Neri Supports
Sedona, Arizona Humane Society