After briefly closing its doors at the beginning of 2006, Tatnuck Bookseller in Westborough, Mass., is making a comeback under the ownership of Westborough Books Inc., which purchased the store's assets in January. The new owners, headed by Eugene S. Colangelo, immediately remodeled the store to make better use of Tatnuck's 33,000 square feet, which now devotes about 25,000 of them to books.
But the most significant change made by the new owners, who collectively have 50 years of experience in the supermarket business, is discounting. "We're pushing 'Never Pay Cover Price,' " Colangelo said. "What better way to promote books? We feel we can make up the margin on volume." Tatnuck, which was a full-price bookstore for its first three decades, now discounts every book 10% and even tries to undersell big-box retailers by offering 31% off hardcover and 21% off paperback bestsellers.
"Sales are up double digits," claimed general manager and book buyer Michael Joachim, who joined Tatnuck this summer after working with Hudson Booksellers. "It's a combination of having more product and being more focused," he said. Since taking over as buyer, Joachim has bought deeper into categories, giving customers wider selection.
As part of its community service outreach, the new owners set aside a 2,000-sq.-ft. area for local groups to use for free. In addition to local Cub Scout troops holding meetings there, Scholastic recently used to the space to present books to teachers. Tatnuck's largest single section is children's, and it has a large educational section for teachers and home schoolers. Sidelines have been transformed into a gift emporium that accounts for a significant part of Tatnuck's sales. Store gift cards, said Joachim, are strong sellers as well. There's also a café offering beverages and Italian pastries.
In addition to heading Westborough Books, Colangelo is chairman of Julio Enterprises, a conglomerate that operates numerous businesses, with holdings in retailing, real estate (including the shopping center in which Tatnuck is located) and newspaper publishing. Colangelo was vague when asked if he is interested in expanding the bookselling business. "We're leaving all our options open," he said. "We know the [discounting] model is working. It's gaining momentum." For now, though, he prefers to work on improving Tatnuck's operations, including the Web site (www.Tatnuck.com), and to step up publicity through local cable and weekly full-page ads in the Westborough paper, the Daily Advocate.