Carol Hoenig and her business partner Peggy Zieran have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $150,000 to open a Long Island, NY, book store called Turn of the Corkscrew, Books & Wine.
They’re currently pretty short of their goal, but they address that in a recent update to the campaign page:
You may notice how much money we need to open a bookstore compared with the donations already received. On first glance, it appears we are failing in our goal, but the reality is that we wanted you to know how much it costs to open an independent bookstore while hoping you realize that any contribution you make is going toward helping us succeed in this goal. Did we think we were going to reach that lofty goal here in IndieGoGo? Not likely—however, miracles do happen.
With just over a month left in the campaign, they’re reaching out to lovers of books, culture, learning, and those who want to see the survival of the independent book store, hoping they’ll contribute to the future opening of “a welcoming place for children and adults where they can discover books that were published recently or long ago, and enjoy a beverage of one’s choice, along with some light refreshments.”
(As a bonus, donors receive certain perks depending on the level of giving. Check out their campaign here.)
Carol and Peggy write a bit on their Indiegogo page about the store they want to open, but I wanted to know more – about everything – so I got in touch with Carol (whose novel Without Grace is wonderful, by the way) and asked her a few questions.
Q: There was a moment when you decided, “I’m going to do it. I’m opening a bookstore.” I know ideas like this usually float around for a while (years, even), often as an “Oh, it would be fun, but who just does that?” thought, but then there’s that moment when it is put into motion. What was that moment for you?
A: I have to say it was when my friend and business partner and I began reading quite a number of articles about how independent bookstores are becoming successful because they are becoming more than “just” a bookstore. We both have the experience and drive, so we thought, why not make this happen?
When I discovered a gallery in my town wasn’t renewing its lease, I thought perhaps that would be an ideal space to have a bookstore, so Peggy and I started discussing it. When we realized it wouldn’t be big enough to do what we wanted, we thought, hey, let’s look at other spaces and see if we can do this. I ended up writing a blog for the Huffington Post titled, Who Opens a Bookstore in this Day and Age? to get some feelers out there. An American Bookseller Association member read it and contacted me to discuss the possibilities.
That’s when Peggy and I realized that there is a support team out there and decided we weren’t going to turn back. Now all these months later, we are struggling to raise start-up funds, but we aren’t giving up. Offering a place to introduce books and diverse programming is very important to us and necessary.
Meet Carol and Peggy
Q: You want to open the store on the South Shore of Long Island. What’s the bookstore situation currently like there?
A: The closest bookstore from where I live is about five miles away. It is a big box store and they don’t do many events at all. When one walks in, one is greeted by a huge display of a particular type of e-reader, which I find to be distracting.
Q: Describe the South Shore of Long Island for those who haven’t been there, such as the average age of the residents, what they do for a living, etc.
A: It really varies since it spans over a lot of miles, but the median age is 40 and the residents’ occupations vary. There are a number of business offices in the area, while there are many restaurants , from casual to four-star.
Q: Why is this particular spot a good spot for a bookstore?
A: First, because there isn’t one remotely nearby. Second, it is accessible via the Long Island Railroad and has a lot of foot traffic.
Q: More generally, what does a bookstore bring to a neighborhood?
A: It brings culture, a place to gather where there can be an exchange of ideas. It will offer education and entertainment.
Q: You recently said you found a great building for Turn of the Corkscrew. What makes the building perfect?
A: Well, since we posted that, we are actually having second thoughts for a number of different reasons. In reality, it was a charming old house zoned for retail, but once we started considering many issues that start-ups must consider, we started approaching it logically. It’s not totally out of the question, but it seems less wonderful than we first thought.
Q: A series of images recently circulated, Ten Inspiring Bookshops Around the World, whose themes ranged from cluttered to cozy to nautical. How would you describe your vision of Turn of the Corkscrew’s interior design?
A: Welcoming while making the reader want to walk in further. Besides having a wide variety of books, many off the beaten path of the best-seller list, we plan to carry unique sideline items. When we attended BookExpo a few weeks ago we got excited about certain items that one wouldn’t find in their typical big box store. There were gift cards that had us laughing, and we plan to carry them because they are wickedly funny and edgy. I want our patrons to experience something fresh when they come to the store.
We also plan to carry artwork from local artists to put on our walls. We really plan to work with the community to help support other deserving creative people who cannot find a forum or venue. We, of course, plan to have an area for the bar with some seating so that our patrons can just be immersed in the atmosphere while
enjoying a beverage of their choice or while they are discussing their favorite book.
We want to have a nice curated selection of books and an event space large enough to host authors, workshops, etc. And an area with a few scattered tables to sit and enjoy a glass of wine or cold beer.
It’s difficult to say exactly how it will look since we will have to actually get into the space and see the requirements for it.
Q: A bookstore with a liquor license seems like a new idea. What made you think “beer and wine” instead of the standard coffee?
A: Well. We will also be serving coffee, tea and soft drinks, but for myself, when I go to an event in the evening, I prefer a glass of wine, and I know I’m not the only one. It just seems to add to the ambiance.
Q: Will it be a place people will want to come just to meet a friend and have a drink surrounded by hundreds of gorgeous books, or would you like the focus to be more on the fact that it is, ultimately, a book store, a place trying to sell books – “but please, do have a glass of wine or some coffee and enjoy your stay”?
A: The latter, for sure. We plan to have a Sunday program with Larry Davidson interviewing authors for a podcast. Larry did this for one of the vineyards for a number of years and called it “Writers on the Vine.” We’d like to do something similar, but offer a light Sunday brunch with it. Our patrons would have the opportunity to sit and listen to Larry interview authors while they are enjoying a mimosa or cup of coffee and perhaps a croissant.
In addition, keeping wine out of the equation, we plan to have a lot of children’s events. We want children to get excited about reading and Peggy is a wonderful storyteller and loves introducing new books to the young set. Every day there will be something going on at Turn of the Corkscrew, Books & Wine and we hope that excites our patrons.
Q: You and Peggy are trying to raise $150,000 by July 26. I know nothing about opening a business. Have you already applied for a business loan?
A: Unfortunately, we cannot apply for a loan until we actually get a space and we cannot get a space until we can raise enough funds to pay two months security, rent, fixtures, product, etc. It can cause us to lose sleep, especially since we haven’t yet raised close to what we are hoping.
We are certain that there are so many book lovers out there who know that it is important to have books available. We are trying to let people know that we aren’t looking for a handout, but rather looking for a community effort, even if that community is across the country, so that Peggy and I can open an independent bookstore and offer something special and unique. We do plan to stock some titles that aren’t easily found on the shelves of other bookstores.
We also have a long line of former booksellers eager to have us hire them since they love being in the type of atmosphere that excites readers.
Q: What happens if you don’t meet your goal by July 26? Will the campaign be extended?
A: We may have to start another campaign once we do sign a lease, but all that is in the air just now. All I know is that we are determined since we believe so strongly in this.
Q: Your Indiegogo site says workshops will be held at Turn of the Corkscrew. Who do you tentatively plan/expect to invite to host the workshops (what kinds of authors, any other industry professionals like people who can offer tips to writers about publishing – whether traditional or self), and how often do you expect to have them?
A: We plan on hosting events every day. We will host numerous types of workshops, and not just for writers. We already have a film class that wants to have meetings in the space. Ideally, we’d love to work with businesses in the community so that they can come in and offer workshops, be it financial help, yoga, mixology. The sky is the limit.
Q: Do you have any feelers out to influential/popular authors who might do readings and signings?
A: Absolutely. Long Island alone has a nice collection of excellent authors and we plan to give them an opportunity to do an event in our store.
Q: What would you say to people who think this is a great idea, who know it’s worth contributing to, but who then think, “Well, it’s in Long Island, and I live [nowhere near Long Island]. I can’t even visit the store. So, really, it has nothing to do with me.”
A: Great question, and one I considered myself. But our thinking is that the more independent bookstores that are doing well and bringing new authors in front of readers, there will be a ripple effect. If a book does well in our store, the other stores will see those figures and think that ordering a few copies of that book in their store may make sense, even if the store is across the country.
Finally, the better educated our citizens are, the better our country will be. Critical thinking is imperative and seems to be a lost art. We hope to bring a diverse collection of programs to our store so that people will perhaps discover something that they weren’t aware of otherwise.
The campaign link again: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/turn-of-the-corkscrew-books-and-wine