Years ago I was driving in the Bay Area and saw a sign for “Gas ‘N Jeans.” It was an old filling station and the owner had converted the service bays into an apparel showroom, so customers could top off their tanks and shop for pants in one convenient stop.
I’ve always liked the dual-purpose business concept and it still pops up occasionally in the news. NPR recently profiled an attorney in Connecticut who runs a law office combined with a barbershop.
In the rare moments at Annie Bloom’s when I have a free moment to let my imagination run wide, it’s intriguing to theorize about what type of product or service we could add on that would catapult us to new levels of commercial success and customer satisfaction.
I ran this idea past one of my co-workers recently and she immediately suggested a martini bar as the ideal commercial compliment, with a nice cozy fireplace that would provide an added element of warm friendliness on chilly winter nights.
Much as I would like participating in this northwest version of the Algonquin Roundtable, the practical side of my brain believes that a bookstore serving adult libations may be walking a bit too far on the wild side. I’m also leery that heavy loads of firewood would have a huge negative impact on my lower back, not to mention the local air quality.
An option that appeals to me on the basis of natural synergy is to offer our book patrons a cinematic experience in the form of a small, intimate movie house. But how, you ask, can a person visiting a bookstore be expected to set aside enough time to sit through an entire film on each visit?
It’s a good point, and my solution would be to show only grade B-science fiction and horror classics from the 1950s and 60s. This would keep iconic figures like Godzilla, the Blob, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon alive in our collective consciousness while also allowing audience members to enter and exit as they please and not feel like they’re missing something really important.
Okay, enough frivolity. If I had to choose one add-on business that would serve a genuinely useful purpose, be self-sustaining, and expand our base of loyal customers my choice would be a clean, well lighted coin-op Laundromat.
What could be more logical or time-efficient than putting your soiled clothes into a washer, sliding in the quarters and then heading next door for something nice to read while the machines run through their cycles? On a personal level, I have a longstanding fascination with laundry technology and would thoroughly enjoy advising all visitors on topics such as proper water temperatures and the insidious effects of using too much detergent.
I suspect that nearly everyone reading this can offer a unique idea for a bookstore add-on. I’m open to all suggestions. Maybe none of them will amount to anything more than wild dreams but hey, dreams are the foundation of all great accomplishments. And a neighborhood bookstore is a great place to start dreaming.
Jeffrey Shaffer is a bookseller at Annie Bloom’s Books in the historic Multnomah Village district of southwest Portland. His relationship with Annie Bloom’s began in the 1990′s when the store’s booksellers enthusiastically sold his two humor collections I’m Right Here, Fish-Cake and It Came With the House. He continues to blog about politics and popular culture for Huffington Post and also contributes to the “Modern Parent” blog at the Christian Science Monitor.