For 18 years, Yakima Valley bibliophiles have been able to satisfy their cravings at Inklings Bookshop.
Owner Susan Richmond didn’t want to be a business owner, but she liked books, and being with people who loved them as well, so she started the bookshop at a time when Amazon was threatening the local bookstore.
By concentrating on what the Seattle-based online retailer couldn’t — such as offering story times and gift wrapping — Richmond, 64, has turned Inklings into a Yakima institution for people looking for books and gifts. Today, the store employs 13 people.
Richmond and her husband, CubCrafters CEO Jim Richmond, have four children, five grandchildren and Tilly, an Australian shepherd who is often found at the store.
Why did you become a business owner?
I never had a hankering to be a business owner, but I did have a hankering to be surrounded by books and booksy people. Becoming a businesswoman was part of the deal and I’ve learned so much over the years. Having a business-minded husband has been my greatest strength. I am privileged to be part of an ever-changing industry that brings new surprises with every book order and I am so proud that our community wants to keep reading and growing too.
What is the most challenging thing about running a bookstore?
My challenge, like many business owners, is to remember to spend time on the important, not only the urgent. It is easy to be diverted from the big picture with the details of the day.
How do you cope with the challenges of Amazon and other online retailers?
Unfortunately, many years ago — about the same time our store began — Amazon decided to use books as their loss-leader. Now, of course they sell everything, but in the beginning their deep discounting — often selling books for much less than we could buy them wholesale — was quite a hit. We decided, however, to concentrate on what we do that Amazon cannot. We have a weekly storytime, sell books at community events, offer free gift wrapping and a smile, among many other things. We have delivered books to shut-ins, partnered with many nonprofits and become friends with our customers. No robotic algorithm on Amazon can compete with us.
What are you reading right now?
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern for my book club.
What was the strangest book anyone’s asked you for?
As an independent bookseller, we believe in a customer’s right to read anything they wish, so we try to reserve judgment on their choices.
The strangest requests are usually those that the customer knows neither the title or author. Sometimes they only know the book had a blue cover. Surprisingly, on a regular basis, our booksellers can make an educated guess and come up with the book they are looking for.