By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Like most booklovers, Denise Phillips can name her favorite bookstores.
In Chicago, where she and her family lived until moving to Perrysburg five years ago, there is the Book Table.
In Ann Arbor, where they’ve made regular trips in the past several years, there’s Literati.
But until earlier this summer, she didn’t have one close to home. So Phillips, and her husband, Brian, took initiative and opened Gathering Volumes at 196 E. South Boundary in Perrysburg.
“We’ve been searching for an independent bookstore,” she said. One that sells new books. Used bookstores are plentiful.
“I think a bookstore is such a community hub,” Phillips said. “You just feel at home, no matter if you’ve ever been there before.”
With a stock reflecting local customers’ interests, book clubs geared to popular genres, and events featuring area authors, that’s just what she envisions Gathering Volumes to be.
The store marks a career switch for her. She was a project manager for an information technology firm. When her father died, Phillips said, “I decided I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing, and this was something that was always there for me.”
So two years ago she started researching the book trade.
And she tapped the expertise of those who ran the kind of bookstore she loved. “The owners of independent bookstores were incredibly helpful and lovely.”
The demographics of the Perrysburg area, with higher than average number of college graduates and lots of families with kids, was a promising market.
Phillips knows it’s a gamble. “It’s a huge risk,” she said. “There’s no guarantee it will be here in three years.”
It was a bet, though, her family was willing to place. With a small business loan, some savings and help from family the business was launched.
Her own two children Isaac, 7, and Mackenzie, 10, are two of the stores biggest fans, preferring to come to the shop after school rather than go home. Mackenzie will even “play” bookstore with friends.
“I don’t think the bookstore will replace the income I had,” Phillips said. “But I enjoy my days, and I enjoy the families that come in.”
Figuring out what those families want is a key.
To stock the more than 8,000 volumes now in the store, she tapped in national analytics, about what would sell. That doesn’t always jibe with local demand. She concedes she probably overstocked mysteries and thrillers and has too little science fiction and fantasy.
Both those genres are the focus of book clubs in which members all read a common book and then get together to discuss it. There are also clubs focused on general fiction and juvenile literature. Coloring book fans also gather bringing along whatever book they are working on at the time.
Phillips said her and her husband’s tastes also are reflected in the shop. “There’s a lot of my husband and I in this store,” she said. They stock a bit more non-fiction, social, biography, health and sport.
And she knew she wanted a section for literary essays and poetry. Ernest Hemingway is a favorite of her husband’s, and she loves the poetry of Charles Bukowski. “I was worried I’d stock too much, but it’s been a pretty popular area,” Phillips said.
Brian Phillips is the technical director for the theater at Ohio Northern University, so he made sure there was a selection of books on the performing arts.
But fine-tuning the collection is an ongoing process.
“Part of being is community bookstore is you need to learn what the community wants,” Phillips said.
So given the popularity of graphic novels, she stocked a section of those. And she’s bought more political books than she expected because of demand.
She’s also added a bargain book table, after initially resisting the idea. “My concern at first was if I can’t get good books, it doesn’t matter what the price is.” But she’s found top shelf items that sell in hard cover for less than the paperback edition.
Beyond what’s on the shelves, she said, “we can special order just about anything.”
Jolie Sheffer, of Bowling Green State University, has provide some short reviews to post on the shelves for certain books. “It pretty amazing how much people like a recommendation,” Phillips said.
It’s all part of the process of hooking up the right readers with the right books, and that includes hosting book signings and readings by local authors.
The future of Gathering Volumes will depend on how well the shop can connect with readers such as David Romaker.
He was in the shop, for only the second time, he said, to pick up a book for his daughter. He’s pleased to have a bookstore locally. His favorite has been a shop in Columbus.
His daughter is an avid reader. A book purchased for her, Romaker said, can be passed on to her four siblings. “It’s always money well spent.”
And he hasn’t started exploring the shop for volumes to add to his own stack of personal readings
Given the amount of time a reader is entertained by a book compared say to a movie, Phillips said, literature is always a good value.
Gathering Volumes is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The shop can be reached at: 567-336-6188, firstname.lastname@example.org and by visiting gatheringvolumes.com.