Like most mothers, I'd do anything for my children. My son, Jason, has high-functioning autism and it has challenged him all his life. With a lot of help and encouragement, he was able to graduate cum laude from high school. After some private lessons, he finally received his driver's license and now drives his own car that he bought himself, thanks to a part-time job with a local movie theater chain where he worked for a while, plus an inheritance from my mother when she passed.
Full time employment, however, seems to be the wall he can't hurdle. He applies but is rarely given the chance to even interview. When he was turned down for the third time for a part-time position at Barnes & Noble this past January, I decided it was time St. George, Utah had an independent bookstore of its own, selling all new books and offering a full slate of events. A bookstore with a heart for those on the autistic spectrum (as well as other disabilities). A bookstore that would give Jason a job and train him to take over one day should he so choose. And it's a natural fit for him--he's always loved books and even taught himself to read by age three.
You may think indie bookstores are dying, but it's just not so. A bookstore can be a profitable business if done right. Between 2009 and 2015 when so many other small businesses were going under, the number of independent bookstores rose--so much so that a Harvard professor set out to study the anomaly to find out what they were doing differently. In short, he found that truly successful bookstore all engaged in what he called "the 3 Cs--Community, Convening, and Curation." That's what we have planned to do with our bookstore.
The Book Bungalow opened on September 26, 2018, and had its Grand Opening on October 19th. We're reaching out to the community, continuing to carefully curate our collection of books, and filling up the calendar with events--sometimes as many as four a week.
In fact, thanks to our good friend, Elise West of Affogato Coffee Shop, we had our first author event--featuring "Chasing Portraits" by Elizabeth Rynecki--about three weeks before we even opened, and we sold 19 of the 24 books sent by Penguin Random House.
The bookcases are now full and we're gradually spreading the word that St. George finally has a full-service independent bookstore. Still, after spending so much for an opening inventory, we certainly aren't making enough yet to pay Jason a salary--or anyone else, for that matter.
Here's where you can help.
Choose to buy your books locally here at The Book Bungalow. Sure, you could get them cheaper on line, but Amazon or any other online or big box source can't give you the feeling you'll get as soon as you walk through our door. And the money you spend locally helps the local tax base, it doesn't go out of state to big corporate headquarters.
Sign up to receive our monthly newsletter, and then come to our events to meet fellow book lovers.
Most of all, spread the word about us in person and on social media. And we would LOVE some more Google reviews.
And if you happen to love books and bookstores and have deeper pockets than the average citizen, think about donating $1,000 or more to sponsor your own shelf or even a whole room in our store.
If you have a grown child or relative with autism, or know someone who does, you are no doubt aware that they don't get nearly the kinds of services the younger kids do. If you can do any of the above, I'll thank you, Jason will thank you, and the communities of St. George, Washington, Santa Clara, and Ivins here in Southern Utah will thrive all the more with a bookstore that brings readers and writers together and welcomes everyone.
We did this for two reasons: to help build a bridge for Jason to his future and to help bridge the literary arts communities of Southern Utah.