Spartanburg, S.C.’s Hub City Bookshop will celebrate its first birthday this month with excellent news, having exceeded sales expectations by 77%. “Our budget was for $90,000 in sales the first year, and we did more than $160,000,” said Betsy Teter, executive director of Hub City Writers Project, the non-profit literary organization that opened the store last summer. “That makes us a pretty small player when compared to the old-time successful indies. But for a small store in a struggling downtown, we are super happy with that. It confirmed for us that this is a viable business.”
Teter, who helped found the Project in 1995, gives credit to the relationships they’ve built over 25 years of work in the community: “We had an e-mail list with 2,000 people on it before we even started,” she said. Events—“lots and lots of events”—have also been a big draw, especially those featuring local authors like Dorothea Frank (Folly Beach), Jason Ryan (Jackpot: High Times, HighSeas, and the Sting that Launched the War on Drugs), and Spartanburg’s own Jamie Cannon, whose self-published hiking memoir In Walking Distance has been a steady seller.
The Hub City staff, which picked up another full-time member in the past year, has also been making loyal customers through innovative community programs. Assistant director Kari Jackson started a writing group called Writer’s Night Out as a way to draw in local wordsmiths: “She averages about 12 writers who come together after our 7 p.m. closing to write and network,” said Teter. At the request of a customer, they’ve recently introduced a weekly Scrabble Night, and plan to implement a Literary Trivia Night and a spelling bee this fall. They’ve also been working with local colleges and high schools.
“This is all about building relationships,” Teter said, referring to both their events and their business success in general. She feels that Hub City’s success, especially with a Barnes & Noble three miles away, bodes well for independent stores in general: “There are niches in the market for what we’re doing, and what happened in the last year proves that.”
Teter is hopeful that their first birthday party, on August 19, will match the 1,000-strong crowd that turned up for their grand opening last summer. “There will be free beer,” she noted. “That builds relationships too!”