When the owners of the 63-year-old Concord Bookshop in Concord, Mass., placed an ad for a general manager in the New England Booksellers Association newsletter this month, they didn't mention that the store, located near the site of the "shot heard round the world," was in the midst of a revolution of its own, a bitter labor dispute that has already caused more than 20% of the staff to quit.
At issue is the owners' plan to hire one general manager to take over the duties of a trio of managers appointed in 1998: Dale Szczeblowski, who handles buying and is v-p of NEBA and a member of the advisory board of the ABA; Jane Dawson, in charge of personnel; and Carol Stoltz, who handles children's books. By January 7, five staffers and Dawson had left the store. The other two managers agreed to stay on until the end of January.
"There isn't much to say yet," Szczeblowski, who has been with the store for 17 years, told PW. "We had a meeting with one of the owners last Friday, and he was optimistic that something can be worked out." At issue is just how precarious Concord's financial situation really is. The Boston Globe quoted owner Morgan Smith as saying, "Things have never been worse."
"We have a different opinion," noted Szczeblowski. "We had budgeted for a decline in sales this year, and we'll see it. But we'll be profitable." The store has not made a final tally yet of Christmas sales, but, said Szczeblowski, "of course, our situation, certainly the turmoil at the store level, hasn't helped our sales."
A number of local authors, including Doris Kearns Goodwin, Alice Hoffman and Gregory Maguire, have weighed in on the dispute. Some 32 book people in all signed an e-mail to the owners on behalf of the three managers.