Not only did the Kansas City metro area lose five chain bookstores in 2011, due to Borders Books’s demise, but it almost lost an independent, I Love A Mystery, as well. Today, not only is I Love A Mystery still open for business in the suburb of Mission, but later this month, a second mystery bookstore, Mysteryscape, is scheduled to open less than five miles away, in Overland Park.
And, in an ironic twist, the co-owner of Mysteryscape, Acia Morley, is a former employee of I Love A Mystery who only decided to open her own mystery bookstore because I Love A Mystery was slated to close this past summer after 11 years. The store was owned by Karen Spengler until her death in 2009. I Love A Mystery’s current owner, Becci West, who had moved to Colorado the previous year to become a buyer at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore in Steamboat Springs, decided to close the store and sell the building in which it was housed in order to more easily move on with her life.
“When [West] decided to close, I thought, I can’t leave all these store customers high and dry,” Morley told PW. “It’s awkward, but we’ll find a way to work it out,” she added. Morley and her business partner, Cheri LeBlond, who is working toward an M.A. degree in marketing, had already signed the lease for their 2,300-square-foot retail space in Overland Park’s downtown shopping district in October when they heard that I Love A Mystery was going to remain in its 2,700-square-foot retail space.
According to Maggi Wood, I Love a Mystery’s manager, after the sale of the building had fallen through in September, West decided to keep the store open due to customer demand, amplified by the booming sales sparked by its going-out-of-business sale in July and August. The store typically stocks about 20,000 used books, alongside some 3,000 new titles, including signed first editions. “We’d already sold off the furniture, 5,000 used books, and almost half the new books,” Wood said, explaining that she and her three fellow employees are building up the store’s stock, especially after a strong holiday season, in which sales were up 10% over last year.
Wood isn’t too concerned about Mysteryscape competing with I Love A Mystery for customers, though she noted that the store has lost one of its two cozies book club to Mysteryscape. “It’s a different audience. They’re younger, more into vampires and alternate reality,” Wood said.
Morley, who worked at a small bookstore/gift store in the area, The Bird Sings, for a year, before working at I Love A Mystery as a bookseller for a year and one-half until she was laid off this past summer,said that Mysteryscape will open later this month, after the building’s owner completes renovations. Mysteryscape will carry 60% new books and 40% used books. The all-fiction inventory of mystery, crime, and thrillers will include both a YA section and a selection of science fiction/paranormal/horror titles containing mystery elements.
“If there’s a mystery at all in the story, we’ll consider it acceptable,” she said.
Scones, brownies, and other snacks will be available for purchase, as well as coffee and tea, in the store’s coffee bar. Mysteryscape will also sell e-books through the ABA’s Indiecommerce program on the store’s website, www.mysteryscape.com.