Booksellers Plan Creative Activities, Promotions for Indies First/Small Business Saturday

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Indies First was created as a way to celebrate local independent bookstores on Small Business Saturday, this year November 28, and booksellers around the country are preparing to host fun activities and special promotions for the third annual event.

Below, find out what several bookstores have planned for Indies First on Small Business Saturday, and see a full list of celebrations and activities on the Indies First map on To ensure your bookstore’s events appear on the map, enter your details into the Indies First Activity Registry.

At Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Illinois, owners Nina Barrett and Jeff Garrett have organized a promotion in which the first 30 customers to spend $100 or more in the store will receive a free copy of The Book Lover’s Calendar 2016 (Workman), a page-a-day calendar full of literary information and reading recommendations. The day will also feature a visit by Jason DeRose, NPR’s West Coast bureau chief, who will return as the store’s “celebrity bookseller” for the second year in a row.

Because Bookends & Beginnings opened in June 2014, the store’s first Indies First celebration took place in its fifth month in business, Barrett said. “We did fantastic business that day, for us at the time. Now, those kinds of sales would be a normal Saturday.”

Other plans for the day include a variation on the store’s popular Independent Bookstore Day Facebook campaign in May. “On Independent Bookstore Day, we were asking people what book changed their lives, and then we took their pictures and posted them on Facebook. Our customers loved it; people were coming in just to have that done,” said Barrett. “In the end, it created this wonderful, almost quilt-like montage of faces and book titles; it was really fascinating.”

For this year’s Indies First celebration, Bookends & Beginnings will invite anyone who makes a purchase to have their picture taken with a copy of the title at the top of their personal wish list, which will be posted to the store’s Facebook page with a caption that reads “I Shopped Local at Bookends & Beginnings, and Here’s What’s on My Holiday Shopping List.”

The celebration of Small Business Saturday will also serve as the start date for a new city-wide shop local activity: Liz @ the Biz.

ABA and Candlewick Press’ Find Waldo Local campaign was such a hit with Evanston’s local businesses this year, Barrett said, that merchants approached the city and the Chamber of Commerce to see if a similar activity could be arranged for the holidays.

From Small Business Saturday through December 19, in an event organized by the Downtown Evanston organization, shoppers are invited to look for figurines of Evanston Mayor Elizabeth “Liz” Tisdahl hidden at participating businesses throughout the city’s downtown shopping district and have their passports stamped to be eligible to win a “Made in Evanston” gift basket.

The day after Thanksgiving marks the kickoff of holiday shopping events in the Seattle, Washington, neighborhood of Ballard, where local businesses are teaming up to celebrate Ballard Gives Black Friday, an effort to bring customers out to shop local while also giving them the chance to support community charities and organizations.

“We turn it around,” said Christy McDanold, owner of Secret Garden Books in Seattle, which is joining more than 20 other local businesses in this effort to rebrand Black Friday. “Instead of giving customers discounts, we give them an opportunity to give back.”

On Black Friday, customers visiting Secret Garden Books can purchase titles to be donated to Page Ahead Children’s Literacy. The store will also donate a percentage of proceeds from the day’s sales to Page Ahead, so the organization can purchase additional books. Other participating businesses are donating to the local food bank, animal rescue groups, and youth organizations.

The following day, authors visiting Secret Garden for Indies First — including Sherman Alexie — will be posing as angel matchers to pair customers with children in need of books. The effort is part of Book Angels, a program managed by a customer who picked up the idea from Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, Illinois. The bookstore will fill its front window with angels featuring a child’s name, age, and gender, and customers can purchase books to donate to each child, this year with the help of Indies First authors.

The annual celebration of Small Business Saturday has been a boon to businesses in Ballard, noted McDanold, as customers are beginning to really understand the shop local message. “In this case, a very large entity in our commercial culture has decided to turn things back to the small, and it seems to have worked,” she said.

Ken Kennedy, owner of children’s bookstore Edgewater Books in Edgewater, Maryland, said he is planning a kids’ day of festive fun for Indies First/Small Business Saturday. Activities, which will be held in a cordoned-off area of the parking lot in front of the store, will include a bounce house, a selfie booth with funny props and backgrounds, free food with donations requested for the Junior League of Annapolis, a Toys for Tots collection with U.S. Marines present, a performance by local musician Adam Merkle, face painting, animal balloons, and, to top it off, a visit from Santa Claus.

Kennedy said he has invested $2,000 in the event. The greatest expense was $1,500 for the selfie booth he rented through Tap Snap, a social media-oriented photo booth rental company, which will automatically post the selfies to the store’s Facebook page. Kennedy has also created a custom hashtag for people to use as they tweet and share their selfies.

“The selfie booth also has the ability to set up an e-mail message so that as they sign up with their e-mail addresses, we will be able to send them a coupon for attending the event,” Kennedy said.

Edgewater’s previous Indies First event, which drew 300 people, was the two-and-a-half-year-old store’s highest sales day of the year, said Kennedy. This year, Kennedy feels he has good reason to believe his investment will pay off in numerous ways, and not just in high sales numbers.

“Indies First on Small Business Saturday is about awareness of our store in the community; it’s not necessarily about sales,” he said.

The Bookies in Denver, Colorado, is hosting more than 20 authors as part of its Indies First events. “Over the last number of years, we’ve been concentrating on local and new authors,” said sales floor manager Larry Yoder, including both self-published authors and those with traditional publishers.

While individual signings for some of these authors have not produced big turnouts, when the bookstore holds a showcase of authors, as it plans to do this year for Indies First, “a kind of cross-pollination takes place,” said Yoder. “We’ve found this to be good for our authors and good for our bottom line.”

Authors will visit the bookstore for two-hour segments throughout the day on November 28, with as many as eight appearing for each block of time. The authors will meet and greet customers, chat informally, snap selfies, and hand-sell their own titles or their favorite reads.

Among the many authors visiting The Bookies will be Indies Introduce author Judith Robbins Rose (Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco, Candlewick), Ellen Byerrum (The Dollhouse in the Crawlspace, Lethal Black Dress Press), and Nancy Sharp (Both Sides Now, Books & Books Press).

Booklovers’ Gourmet in Webster, Massachusetts, will offer a “Taste of the Holidays,” providing customers with a chance to sample food items that make good gifts, like gourmet flavored popcorn, maple products, nuts, jams, chocolates, and fudge, all locally made in New England and available from The Farmer’s Plate. All attendees will also be entered into a raffle for a gift basket filled with goodies.

Debra Horan, owner of Booklovers’ Gourmet, a bookstore featuring used and new books, an art gallery, hand-crafted gifts, and a café, said she wasn’t able to arrange for any authors to be guest booksellers this year, but she is always happy to join in the fun for Indies First on Small Business Saturday in any way she can.

“Even if I can’t get an author to attend, I try to make it interesting with food tastings and raffles for advance reading copies. It’s always a festive atmosphere and gets people in the mood for the season,” said Horan.

In Kailua Kona, Hawaii, bookstore Kona Stories is encouraging shoppers to spend at least one day during the holiday shopping season supporting small, local businesses. Kona Stories opened Thanksgiving weekend in 2006, and it will be celebrating its birthday along with Small Business Saturday and Indies First on November 28 with cake and co-owner Brenda McConnell’s famous sangria, a favorite of customers.

The Grinch will be in the store from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for photos, which co-owner Joy Vogelgesang said is a huge hit every year for more than just the children visiting the shop. “We get lots of grandparents who send pictures to their grandkids — we have people who bring in their dogs!” she said.

“Last year, we lined up a cookbook author to bring in samples from her cookbook, which was also very popular,” said Vogelgesang. This year, the bookstore is once again featuring a local chef: Sonia R. Martinez, who will be doing cooking demonstrations and preparing tasty samples from her cookbook From Soup to Nuts (Larry Czerwonka Company). Liz Button and Sydney Jarrard