One of Maryland's largest independent bookstores, Greetings & Readings, will open a second location in the spring of 2005 in Hunt Valley, 10 miles away from its store in Loch Raven Plaza in Towson.

The new 30,000-sq.-ft. store will be in the horseshoe-shaped Hunt Valley Towne Center, which has such anchor stores as Sears, Wal-Mart and Burlington Coat Factory. "We'll be hiring 75 new employees for the new location," Steve Spund, Greetings & Readings v-p and general manager, told PW.

Founded 35 years ago, the main 24,000-sq.-ft. Greetings & Readings store has a staff of 125 people, including administrative help and bookkeepers. To say the company is family-owned and -operated is an understatement. Greetings president Steven Baum took over when his father retired roughly 15 years ago. Baum's wife, Fran, oversees the store's cafe and the custom printing shop inside the store that provides wedding and party invitations. Spund is Baum's brother-in-law, whose wife, Amy, works in the store's administrative accounting department.

The current location devotes about one-third of its retail space to books. "Books and cards sell best in our store—it's the backbone of Greetings & Readings," said Spund. "We plan to increase our book inventory at the new location so the new store will carry about 40% more books than we have here." The Towson store's remaining inventory includes novelty and trendy souvenirs, clothing apparel, Godiva chocolates and the previously mentioned cafe. The new store will have a similar product mix.

The Towson store hasn't been immune to competition. Within three miles, a Barnes & Noble and a Borders are across the street from each other. "But we've done very well with the competition because we're much more than a bookstore," said Spund. "We're fortunate that we have customers who don't like shopping at national bookstores. Our reputation is built on our special orders and personal service."

It took an "almost perfect project" to lure the family into expanding to a second location, Baum has written on the bookstore's Web site. "We have seen the success of other Towne Centers and believe, for our retail concept, that Hunt Valley represents an opportunity that we couldn't overlook. The trend is for customers to spend an increasing amount of time at one shopping venue, to avoid multiple trips to different retail centers. Our product offering of books, cards and gifts plays into this philosophy, as our consumers tend to linger for longer periods of time."

"We hope to start recruiting booksellers for the new location in January," Spund told PW. "Our goal is to start booksellers at our current location and then move them and some of our current employees over to the new store when it opens."