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Director’s Desk:
A Thriving Independent Bookstore in a Shrinking World

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When visiting Washington, DC, most people go to the Smithsonian, the National Air and Space Museum, the Woodley Park Zoo, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and so forth. These are all wonderful places to see. But while on vacation in DC in July, I stopped at my favorite tourist spot. In fact, I visited it twice during the seven days I was in town.

Kramerbooks, with its wonderful restaurant Afterwords, is not only a fun place to visit. It’s also a lesson in how to succeed in the ever diminishing world of independent bookstores. Located in Dupont Circle, within walking distance of Borders and the Second Story (a very large used-book store), Kramer’s is filled with bookpeople day and night. When I read in Publishers Weekly recently that Borders had made an arrangement with a popular yuppie chain restaurant and was placing a bar and restaurant at several Borders bookstore locations, I thought, Kramer’s did that years and years ago.

 

Eating Up Books

I remember attending the Book Expo America in Washington, DC, a while back (when it was a smaller event called “ABA,” short for the American Booksellers Association convention). A group of us who had been working the show in our booths or just walking the floor decided to end our evening by dining at Kramer’s café, Afterwords. We didn’t have reservations. However, when we got there and were told the wait would be approximately 45 minutes for a table, no one complained. We just smiled and began browsing the shelves of the store. This exemplifies why we all go into porg>shing in the first place. We love books. We love being surrounded by them. And we can always find a book that we must have.

When they announced that our table was ready, I chuckled to find myself in the checkout line, with several of my dining companions, purchasing one, two, or three books each. We looked at each other and laughed. After spending two or three days on the floor of the ABA, where we could get just about any book we wanted at no cost, each of us had found the need for yet another book to add to our collections. And we were willing to shell out full retail for that book. I still have mine. It was about the wonderful bed and breakfast establishments throughout the states of Oregon and Washington. Like many of my cookbooks, it remains unused. But it’s there if I want it!

This year, I bought one book on my initial trip to Kramer’s. It’s a wonderful book about synchronicity called There Are No Accidents. I devoured it in two days, which meant I had to return to Kramer’s later that week. During the second visit, I bought two more books that I had looked at and talked myself out of buying the first time.

Yes, like many of you, I’m a book junkie, and I am thankful that the American Booksellers Association hasn’t videotaped the workings of Kramerbooks in DC to distribute to their membership as a place to emulate. Imagine if a Kramer’s opened in my region. I’d probably never find time to write this column!

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