Over Veteran’s Day Weekend, the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, Mass., celebrated its first half century. Founded in 1963 by Romeo Grenier, the store is located across from Mount Holyoke College. In the months leading up to the festivities, the bookstore, now owned and run by his daughter, Joan Grenier, invited 50 authors to participate in events, beginning with Holly Black (The Coldest Girl in Coldtown) on September 3. Doris Kearns Goodwin (The Bully Pulpit), Paul Harding (Enon), and cookbook authors Deborah Madison (Vegetable Literacy), and Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell (The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook) are among the many authors who have participated in readings or tastings at the store. With children’s events, like a recent Fancy Nancy party and contest, Grenier anticipates more than reaching her original goal of one event to be held between September and December for every year the store has been open.
“In terms of the future, I’m optimistic,” says Grenier, who is finishing up a term as president of the Pioneer Valley Local First. She notes that events continue to be an important part of what The Odyssey does, and the bookstore has the largest literary author event schedule in Western Massachusetts. In addition to focusing on author appearances for adults and children, the bookstore is continuing to grow its First Edition Book Club, which has approximately 275 participants and has contributed to up sales for hardbacks at The Odyssey. “Each month member get additional offers,” says Grenier. “It’s hard to select just one book. So we’ll have eight to ten additional books that they can buy. We might sell 30 copies of a book that’s not a main selection.” A similar program for kids, the Gift of Reading, is growing, too, and has over 30 active members.
A year and a half ago The Odyssey upgraded to an IndieCommerce Web site. “It’s still a small percentage of store sales, but we’re seeing more sales activity and more traffic,” says Grenier. In addition to people using the site to check for events they’re buying more used books and signed books online. Used books have become a bigger part of what The Odyssey does in its physical space, particularly fiction and mystery titles. Overall fiction, children’s, including an expanded YA section, cookbooks, politics, American history, and mysteries are the store’s strongest categories. While textbook sales—the store carries books for Mount Holyoke—have declined, trade sales are up, despite a difficult July because of the heat wave. And Grenier anticipates that trade will be up for the year.