Monday, April 6, 2009

Coffee-stained books.

I got a call from a landlord in Prineville, who was thinking of starting up a used bookstore/coffee shop.

Now, I can't tell you if combining coffee and books is a good idea or a bad idea. But I can tell you that doing it because everyone else is doing it, seems ....I don't know....doubtful.

I've noticed that Borders has decided to 'rededicate' themselves to being booksellers, instead of purveyors of multi-media. Novel idea, eh? A bookstore that sells books.

When Linda and I opened the Bookmark, we had almost everyone tell us that we should serve coffee, among other things. But by then, we had 25 years of experience under our belt. We kept to the mantra "Keep it Simple, Stupid" throughout the process.

I'm trying to imagine running our thriving store with the added burden of space, time, energy and money (not to mention infrastructure and labor) of doing a coffee shop on top of it.

But you're always saying, diversify! Duncan!

Yes....in product. Product that uses the same space, systems, cost-structure and labor requirements as other product lines.

It's a little like diversifying your transportation by buying a horse. Quaint, and cute, and a whole nother magnitude of complexity and trouble.

I know of at least one bookstore that stalled because of the bureaucratic requirements of servicing food and drink.

Two new bookstores opened in Redmond in the last couple of years -- one with a full service bar that served drinks and snacks, with comfy chairs, and so on. The other, last I looked, was all books.

The one that is all books is still there.

What I'm saying is question it when EVERYONE is doing it. You may be better off doing the opposite.

By the way, the customer will always, always, always says "DO IT!" Why wouldn't they?

Extra amenities, extra service? Why not? What's the problem?

But an owner really needs to add up the costs, and the continued costs, and be absolutely certain that's the direction they should go. For example, I've been watching the success of Keeneye's Paizano's Pizza place in Baker City on her blog, Untrained Professional with OCD (Link at Pegasus Books Blog). And kind of wincing when she keeps adding menu items and services.

But what if she decided -- on top of everything else she's doing -- to take a section of her restaurant and do an entirely different business? She needs that like she needs a hole in her head, I'm pretty sure.

I don't think people put this much thought into these choices: it 'sounds' good, everyone is doing it, and it's a nice amenity. What could go wrong?

But if you are very, very successful in your core business, then that 'other' business may actually detract from it. If you aren't successful, than the 'other' usually isn't enough to save you, at least from my observation.

For a few years there, I was under pressure from every one of my game suppliers to 'support' their product lines by having 'game' place space, and to 'host' tournaments. Feeling overwhelmed by product and everything else, I continually turned them down.

But I noticed that 'add value' space and energy hasn't saved a whole lot of independent card shops, games stores, toy stores, and bookstores from the CORE WEAKNESS of their main product.

Seems to me that if the core product is weak, it's dangerous to distract yourself from it by adding something completely different -- unless you intend to transition into that new thing. And then, the same logic holds. Go completely into the new thing if that's what you intend to do.

Whenever anyone asks "Why" I don't do something, the answer is always the same: Money, Time, Space, Energy, or Interest.

Like I said early on, I'm not saying it can't work.

I'm saying -- question the assumption.

P.S. I just realized that this might be construed as a slam at Dudley's down the street, but that isn't at all where I'm going. In fact, from the articles I've read about them, they have a whole thought-out coffee, books and public meeting place ethos worked out.

I'm saying that I don't know that coffee/books is a slamdunk idea that everyone automatically thinks it is....

3 comments:

BENDBUST said...

Coffee, ... So bums hang out in your store? Now you got to go back and have brain-dead folks to pour coffee, with real costs of say $20/hr, then pray that your coffee revenue exceeds, ... oh don't forget the commercial dish-washer, and all the public health shit, and the bathroom, did I mention code to ADA? I have friends who have spent 2-3 years jumping through hoops to open 'legal' coffee shops.

Powells for years has let a third party run a coffee shop in their mag section downtown pdx, I think in recent years they pulled the mags. Oh, and then all the new books, ... float to the coffee room, and are left their after people hangout all day and are done reading, ...

Sure I'm sure lots of parasites would love to have a cup of coffee and hang out in a book store in Bend!!! Don't forget the 'free' high-speed wireless, ... toss in some free cookies, ...

NOPE, keep what you & linda got, sell used books and/or new, have just yourselves as employees, ... perhaps someday someone can open up a coffee shop next door, ... Problem is the 'coffee' gig is over, more starbucks are now closing than opening. $4 coffee is out, fifty-cent cup is back, watery coffee is back, latte is out. Who would have guessed?

Sure a third party would love to sell coffee and let their customers peruse your reading material for free, or better yet find a coffee person who will provide the building, service, and materials for free, to your book customers.

If a 'coffee shop' was such a GOOD fucking idea in BEND, then we would have one, but we don't, we got lots of over-priced bakery's, but NO-WHERE in BEND is there a place to 'hang-out' and drink coffee. Probably cuz there are no hippy's or anarchists in Bend.

Bend is fucking Pug (Republican), boring fucking pug, more about nails, and anal cleansing, and pedicures, less about drinking coffee and reading mother-jones.

The trend in Starbucks is to not make it comfortable, to not have any newspaper except US Today, WSJ, and Oregonian, NO ALT's allowed thank you.

Years ago, probably 20+ years there was a nice coffee-shop with couchs where 'SOBA' is now downtown, I liked it very much, comfy, today the best place in downtown is near the down-towner Berlottis, hell I don't remember but its nice, with tables, and its NOT comfortable, ...

The real 'stump-towns' in PDX have couchs, even the fake-stump-town in Bend, next to Stocatto, doesn't have fucking couchs, this is BEND, folks must 'move-along'.

Keep Moving, ... Keep spending money, keep trimming the nails, and bleaching your rectum, Jeebus is coming to Bend.

Jeff said...

No need for real coffeehouses anymore - we have VIRTUAL coffeehouses -- it's called the INTERNET.

BENDBUST said...

People still need to have face-to-face, if nothing else, but to get laid.

When I'm in PDX, I note at the 'real coffee' shops there, that most customers are all with laptops, and often texting ( twitter... ) to those next to them.

The laptop is/was a status symbol, with the $50/mo internet now non-affordable to most, and if coffee shops can continue to offer 'free internet', you may see a re-surge in 'hangin' at the coffee shop.

I don't think that sitting at home on your internet is very good for procreation, and thus could be the end of our highly gifted population.

Honestly, if the 'internet' is 90% PORN as people say, and its still discouraging that masturbation in public is not accepted in Bend's coffee shops, perhaps we can lobby that Bend be more like Amsterdam, where pot, coffee, hash, masturbation and whoring is very legal, and accepted.

I remember my first years in Greece on the beach in the summer, I was quite surprised to see so many hot babes fingering themselves, note everybody is naked on the beach, nobody gave a second thought to somebody stroking themselves, I quickly learned that if I had a pack of smokes laying beside myself their would be an endless stream of women who would sit beside me and have a smoke, ...

Thus in response to Jeffs assert to 'internet@home' he may be right, that like US-BEER post depression, ameriKKKans became HOME drinkers, and unlike the British/Irish where drinking was 100% social, perhaps in the US the internet may become a 'isolationist' endeavor??

My bet is that the $50/mo is too much for the average slacker, and I'm seeing virtually every high-tech person I know over fifty losing his/her job, and this shit will go.

Me? My money is still on beaches in Greece in the summer. Best free entertainment during the day, and at night it even gets better.

Bend is such an artificial shit-hole, and nobody in Bend just hangs out, I'm not sure its capable of having a 'scene', I would not want to be an investor, but I honestly would hang-out at a place where SOBA used to be where you could sit on couches and chat with the same locals everyday, and enjoy the young eye-candy, and still do your SHIT on the internet. Like work, or follow up on email.

I don't go into dunc's shop, but I do frequently buy books at his wifes shop.