January 11, 2019
Independent bookstore coming to Main Street
Rachel Sirene and Cammie Fuller, along with another partner, will open Old Town’s Open Book at 104 Main St. in about six weeks.
File Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The bookstore will occupy the former Latitudes Fair Trade space, which the Virginia ABC had considered for a new liquor store. That store could open around the corner on South Fifth Street.
It is an act of faith. You’ve got to believe in your model; you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and get really good at it.
— Old Town’s Open Book co-owner Cammie Fuller
Old Town’s Open Book
Cammie Fuller, Rachel Sirene and a silent partner.
Independent, general bookstore, with 7,000 to 10,000 new hardcover and paperback volumes.
Three owners, 5 to 6 part-timers.
104 Main St., Warrenton.
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
• Planned opening:
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The two Warrenton friends had no doubt Old Town needed an independent bookstore.
On and off for about five years, Cammie Fuller and Rachel Sirene talked about how to fill that retail void.
“Every time we talked about this, it ended up with, ‘Well, if no one else does it, by the time I’m ready, I’ll do it’,” explained Ms. Fuller, recalling their conversations.
Ms. Fuller reached the point of readiness last spring, launching what became an “intense” research and planning process that will result in the March opening of Old Town’s Open Book at 104 Main St.
Main Street’s first independent bookstore in decades, Old Town’s Open Book will carry only new titles.
With a range of books designed to appeal to all readers, the inventory will total 7,000 to 10,000 volumes, said Ms. Fuller, who last spring left her job as the Saint James’s Episcopal Church School librarian to start the business.
To learn more about the independent bookseller business, she and Ms. Sirene purchased how-to and other materials from the American Book Sellers Association, visited more than 20 “indie” stores in Virginia and elsewhere and talked with countless local merchants, public school librarians and Fauquier’s public library director.
“I had a business before,” said Ms. Fuller, who served as Saint James’ librarian from 2011 to 2018. “And I knew that you can’t take it lightly. You can’t cut corners; you’ve got to know what you’re doing; you’ve got to know the landscape.”
Bookstore owners that the partners consulted stressed the importance of “community engagement” and a deep knowledge of the local market demands, Ms. Fuller said.
“Independent bookstores right now are surviving and thriving because they tie into their community and they learn what their community wants,” added the 45-year-old mother of three young children. “I heard that over and over again.”
Ms. Fuller took that approach to building the Saint James’ school library collection from 200 to 2,000 volumes and will apply it to Old Town’s Open Book.
“I knew what the students wanted,” she said. “I knew what they were drawn to, but I also wanted to challenge them. You’ve got to provide something that sparks the open mind, that makes people think, makes them want to have conversations and engage in conversations.”
The partners want the store to function as that kind of venue and more.
They also expect to conduct at least one store event per week, including story times for children, author events, writing workshops and adult book clubs.
Old Town’s Open Book also plans to work with schools, the public library and the PATH Foundation on projects of mutual interest, she added.
E-commerce — particularly Amazon — can’t do any of that, Ms. Fuller stressed.
If the shop doesn’t carry titles customers want, it will special order them.
The owners knew they wanted a store in Old Town, preferably on Main Street.
In some ways, “it is an act of faith,” Ms. Fuller said of the business. “You’ve got to believe in your model; you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and get really good at it.”
“Old Town is really the heart of our community,” said Ms. Sirene, 45, the Saint James’ school director of curriculum and instruction and the mother of three young children. “It’s where so many people come to look for local items — whether it’s locally crafted piece of art, or they’re supporting a local jeweler or whatever their reason is.
“We just felt strongly about being part of the Main Street community.”
The partners considered about a dozen Old Town properties, including five or six on Main, before deciding on the former Latitudes storefront, a 1,500-square-foot space they will lease at $2,000 per month.
Nearby Main Street merchants welcome the addition.
“A bookstore is going to bring in people that wouldn’t have been inclined to come into town,” said Pablo Teodoro, whose corner Great Harvest Bread Co. at 108 Main St. adjoins Old Town’s Open Book space.
The bookstore also represents a “near perfect match” with his bakery, Mr. Teodoro said. “My customers are automatically going to go there.”
“I think it will be wonderful,” said Annette Johnson, owner of The Town Duck, a wine and gift shop at 100 Main St. “I think it will bring a lot of people to Main Street. Independent bookstores are on the upswing. I can’t see anything but positive about it.”
Across the country, independent bookstores continue to prosper, according to American Booksellers Association Senior Strategy Officer Dan Cullen.
“Nationally, new stores are opening, established stores are finding new owners, and a new generation is coming into the business as both owner/managers and frontline booksellers,” Mr. Cullen said in an email.
In 2018, independent bookstores experienced almost a 5-percent “year-over-year increase in sales compared to the previous year, he said.
Mr. Cullen attributed those and other related gains to the “unique and unparalleled opportunity” independent bookstores give readers to discover “new authors and great writing.”
Old Town “absolutely” needs an independent bookstore, Warrenton Mayor Carter Nevill said.
Mr. Nevill believes Old Town’s Open Book will appeal to all kinds of people.
“It’s got a universal appeal,” suggested the co-owner of Carter & Spence, jewelry and gift shop at 41 Main St. “It’s going to be a destination.”
Through conversations and social media, few if any potential retailers generate as much enthusiasm as a bookstore, Mr. Nevill said.
“I know this community,” he said. “I know the desires of the community. I know what a bookstore brings to a community. Everything lines up for (Old Town’s Open Book) to be a success.”
Old Town’s Open Book will occupy the storefront that the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Department in November had identified as a potential liquor store location.
As an alternative, Mr. Teodoro believes ABC will consider the vacant space at 10 S. Fifth St. that adjoins his corner bakery.
ABC Spokesperson Valerie Hubbard declined to confirm that.
“We are currently evaluating other sites in downtown Warrenton for a potential ABC store to determine if any of those other locations are more favorable than the previously proposed Main Street location,” Ms. Hubbard said in an email Thursday. “It would be premature to disclose these other potential locations, before we are able to make a site visit and evaluate the merits of each location.”
John Capetanakis, who owns the former Latitudes storefront and the vacant Fifth Street space, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.
Fauquier’s last independent bookstore — BJ’s Books at Waterloo Station shopping center in Warrenton — closed in 2014.
The nonprofit Friends of the Fauquier Library operates The Book Cellar at the John Barton Payne Community Hall downtown. It sells only used books, typically costing 50 cents to $1. All proceeds help support county library programs.
Contact Don Del Rosso at Don@FauquierNow.com or 540-270-0300.
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SarahHenderson · January 17, 2019 at 6:12 pm
Good luck to this new endeavor!
Mayday · January 13, 2019 at 2:26 pm
A bookstore is preferable to a liquor store on Main Street. However, selling only "new" titles won't appeal to the most people. Maybe the community events/clubs aspect will make a difference.
Sven622 · January 11, 2019 at 7:52 pm
Not that I don't want a bookstore, but ... seriously? A bookstore? Borders closed ... all over. BJs.... gone.... A bookstore? Rotsa Ruck!
Tony Bentley · January 11, 2019 at 12:07 pm
Best of luck! Was informed by a source that knows, the landlord charges a large fee for maintenance even if it's a minor repair, check your contract.
Rover 530 · January 11, 2019 at 12:05 pm
Good idea. Wish them luck. Hope the community supports them. Many people still like to curl up with a real book. If the ABC store does locate in Old Town, the 5th Street location is better than the one envisioned on Main Street. Closer to parking.
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