First it was Barnes & Noble, then it was Amazon: Stiff competition by chain stores, followed by the advent of online powerhouse Amazon with its predatory pricing, has been signing the death warrant for the independent bookstore for many years now. Except that the anachronism refuses to die, thanks to dedicated, creative entrepreneurs who view their store as a vital part of the local community and book-lovers who still prefer to browse the aisles rather than the internet. Here in the Hudson Valley, we are fortunate to have several thriving independent bookstores, one of which, Woodstock’s Golden Notebook, has been operating since 1978 and is considered a local institution.
Operated by Jacqueline Kellachan since 2010, the store recently was awarded a $7,500 grant from best-selling novelist James Patterson, who gave away more than $1 million to 178 independent bookstores in 2014. The grant was proof that Kellachan, who, prior to buying the business, didn’t have experience in publishing or book-selling, has learned her new trade well. Almanac Weekly’s Lynn Woods recently talked to Kellachan:
What did you do before purchasing the Golden Notebook?
I worked for the City of New York and the state as an infectious disease epidemiologist, investigating disease outbreak and surveillance.
What motivated you to buy the bookstore?
I had moved to Woodstock in 2005 and become committed to the community. The bookstore’s original owners, Barry Samuelson and Ellen Shapiro, had run a wonderfully successful business, but saw it cut in half between 2002 and 2007, after the big-box stores and Amazon gained critical mass. In 2010 they were ready to get out, and I bought it because I felt it was important to preserve the visceral physical space of the bookstore so that people could experience discoverability in a physical way, not via an algorithm. I believe in what bookstores can provide: the added experience through interaction, curation and author events.
How many author events do you host a year?
We do 100 a year, and all are free. Not everyone will buy a book, but they’ll walk away with something. We must do events to bring people in the door and get our name out there. We’ve become an important cultural resource in the community, and we work very hard to be relevant.
Recently we were lucky enough to get a lot of signed books by Neil Gaiman, which we ordered from all over the country and world. He and his wife, Amanda Palmer, teach at Bard, and on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving [he was among the authors] who came into our store to work. Indie Saturday is a new tradition, which we’ve had for two years. This year spokespeople came into our store, Oblong Books and Spotty Dog, in Hudson. They signed lots of books.
Any other ways you market the bookstore?
I’m on WAMC’s Roundtable every six, seven weeks on Tuesday morning, when the show is devoted to authors and local booksellers come on to talk about books. When I was on last Tuesday, I talked about several children’s books, two food books and three biographies I liked, which are listed on our website.
My philosophy with the store is saying “Yes” to everyone and everything, including a local writer who may not have been published by the big publishing companies. We do events with people who have published their own books. There has been an explosion of self-publishing.
Do you sponsor other types of events?
[Writer and Woodstock Times reporter] Violet Snow has a group called Glaring Omissions that meets in our store one Sunday a month, with many members who are writers. The Woodstock Poetry Society has its monthly meeting here on Saturday.