Do more to promote your unique place in the community—that was the key recommendation made by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association's new Peer Eye team to Kate Levinson and Steve Costa, owners of Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes, Calif.
The Peer Eye program started a few months ago when NCIBA member Christine Mayall at Bookshop Benecia sought ideas for her store from booksellers she trusted and who understood her store. The NCIBA quickly assembled its own version of the Fab Five to help Mayall: Calvin Crosby from Books Inc., Michael Barnard from Rakestraw, Judy Wheeler from Towne Center Books, Luisa Smith from Book Passage and Marci Johnson from Copperfield's. All but Johnson were part of the posse that visited Point Reyes Books a few weeks ago.
The store is housed in a historic 1898 building in the center of a small downtown in a rural community in Marin County, known for its scenic beaches and other kinds of natural oases that attract general tourists and those interested in the whole mind, body, spirit. Levinson and Costa bought the 1,000-sq.-ft. store four years ago and have tried to transform it from a sleepy used book shop with odd hours into a bookstore that stocks both new and used titles, with author events and a commitment to sustainable agriculture and living. (Prince Charles even paid the store a visit because of its specialty.)
Barnard said he thought the store's commitment to sustainability was evident in the books it carried, but suggested the owners create signage to get the message out more clearly. Crosby suggested that the store could also better exploit its rustic charm and improve customer flow by using handmade signs for the sections. "I see a side-of-the-road, 'berries-for-sale' kind of thing," he added. Smith suggested moving the mysteries right next to fiction and placing exercise near travel. Wheeler thought the children's nook could be moved to the back wall so that the kids could sit on the rugs on the floor.
All in all, the Peer Eye team suggested simple things to improve Point Reyes Books. But to Levinson, their suggestions were "radical" and much appreciated.