I wrote a while back about the Minimum Viable Bookstore, an idea which helped us to get through some difficult times in the startup process. It’s hard to believe that that post was shared over eight months ago, and that Griffeys’ Book Emporium has now been open for almost six months on the dot. We have come along way in that short amount of time, and with our Grand Reopening this past Saturday, I can now officially say that Griffeys’ is no longer merely the minimum viable bookstore.
When we opened our doors on September 5th, 2022, our salesfloor filled less than half of the usable space we were renting, because we hadn’t been able to get enough shelving to fill the whole thing. The rest was filled with stacks and stacks of unsorted books, piled up behind a wall of bookshelves that barely hid them from view. Our salesfloor was weirdly organized, our books were completely un-alphabetized, and there was a section of wall up near the ceiling that was embarrassingly unpainted. Truly, this was the minimum viable bookstore.
But the community response was amazing. We sold over two hundred books on our first day, and people just kept coming back. Over the following weeks, we reorganized our shelves, alphabetized our books, and strove to continuously improve the store as much as possible. As I write this, we have now furnished the entire space with bookshelves, redone our floorplan to be more intuitive and inviting to customers, opened up the entire shop to visitors, and, yes, painted that pesky section of wall up near the ceiling. We now have an office, where a small stack of books are waiting patiently for repair work, and a chess set where customers can play a game or two while they visit.
I am strangely nostalgic for the minimum viable bookstore, even as I recognize now that it truly was the bare minimum! How did we survive with only twenty-odd bookshelves? Why on earth did we originally put the checkout desk near the back of the room instead of up front near the door?? But it is important to look back and recognize where we came from, even as I contemplate the work still ahead. There are books to be sorted and cleaned and priced and shelved, and repairs to be done, events to host, administrative duties to attend to. But most importantly, there are customers to greet and help and chat with, customers who stuck by us even when we were brand new and disorganized and a little bit confused about how to accept card payments. It is thanks to them that we are still here, and (hopefully) better than ever.