It’s been almost a year since Bright Side Bookshop first opened its doors to the Flagstaff public. During that time, the store has hosted a handful of workshops, literary readings and special events featuring local and regional authors.
To give back to the community that has helped them grow into Flagstaff’s local literary hub, owners Annette Avery and Lisa Lamberson are hosting One Year and Counting this Tuesday, Feb. 20, just one day short of their one-year anniversary.
As Avery and Lamberson prepare to celebrate this milestone, they reflect on their first few days and how they felt as owners of Flagstaff’s newest independent book store. Nervous, they said, was an understatement.
“I don’t think we knew enough to be nervous yet, honestly,” said Lamberson with a laugh. “We just came at it with a lot of enthusiasm and not much knowledge. It was our temporary moment of insanity as we like to call it.”
There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a book. Maybe it is the weight of its pages in your hand or the sweet, musty smell of the paper. Fo…
Lamberson and Avery admitted to knowing very little when it came down to the depth of the book industry, the ins and outs of running an independent book store and even their point of sale system, but their passion for books, knowledge and community drove them to continue their journey.
“For me I think just the love of books and the love of knowledge and all that can come from the sharing of a book with someone is a beautiful thing. It’s almost romantic when you think about it,” said Avery.
Bright Side’s building has a history of literature, previously housing Barefoot Cowgirl, Flagstaff’s then-hub for new, independent books. Upon first seeing For Sale signs on the building, Lamberson said she was “heartbroken,” fearing Flagstaff would lose the community resource Barefoot Cowgirl offered. Her other shop, Mountain Sports, also previously housed a Flagstaff favorite for literature and community, McGaugh’s Newsstand.
“It hasn’t been in business for 18 years now but people still walk through the front door, look around and go, ‘Where’s the book shop?’” said Lamberson. “Over the years I’ve heard that story and that love of a bookstore that was.”
After talking with her husband, Ben Shaffer, and Avery, they decided to go for it. Immediately one of the challenges they faced was product selection. Of the thousands of books released every Tuesday, what should an independent book store like Bright Side bring in?
“There’s the bestsellers and the big names and the books you know are going to have a big marketing push behind them, but identifying the sleepers, identifying the things our customers are expecting from us that may not be the billboard books has been our biggest challenge—buying and selecting,” said Lamberson.
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Avery added that “the books that don’t sell are the reaction of your customers to your book inventory.”
“If you have a book that hasn’t sold for a year it’s your customers reacting to it,” said Avery. “It’s not that you chose poorly, it’s that you didn’t choose right for your customers.”
For Avery, part of the draw of independent bookstores is “finding that treasure,” books you won’t find at Barnes & Noble, airport bookstores, Amazon or places that carry big name authors and best sellers.
“We strive for that. We strive for finding hidden treasures that might resonate with our customers,” said Avery.
Avery said that when new shipments of books come in, it’s like “opening a Christmas present.” The magic of literature is not lost upon her and Lamberson, who light up when talking about choosing books for their store. A day at work means a day surrounded by new books, new knowledge to consume and stories to live in.
“I think that leads to the second challenge of being a bookstore owner: being surrounded by all these beautiful books that you have no time to read,” said Lamberson.
As well as hosting literary events, Avery and Lamberson said their focus for their second year will be exploring the types of events they can host. Events such as Sunday musical performances, a nautical-themed Sea Shanty night and a Ukrainian egg dying workshop last Easter, prove to the business owners that Bright Side is more than a book shop.
“I think that’s helped us to realize that we are so much more than just books and authors,” said Lamberson. “It’s helped us ask, ‘What are the other things the community is looking for?’”
One year later, Lamberson and Avery said business is good, and the support from the community came somewhat as a surprise.
“We’ve got a little bit of a tiger-by-the-tail situation here,” said Lamberson. “The amazing support and success we didn’t anticipate so quickly has been so reassuring.”
In an age of Kindles and E-books, Bright Side Bookstore offers the unique experience of gathering with others in a celebration of literature, of what physical books do to capture our imaginations, to move and inspire, and what it means to share that experience with others. A year into their run, Bright Side Bookstore remains committed to community and the beauty of the written word.