A Growing Concern

There's niche marketing and then there's marketing in niches. If anything, they've managed to corner the market on both at the Bookies, the only bookstore in town with enough children's poetry tomes to stock prominent displays of everything from the Robert Louis Stevenson classics to a volume of odes to baseball right near the entrance. But if you think they'd have to expend all their poetry to make such a splashy presentation at the front of the store, head to the back. There's an entire wall of poetry books there, just waiting to introduce the elementary art of rhyming to you and your little literary sponges.

Owner Sue Lubeck, who started the Bookies in her home more than twenty years ago, did so for the simplest of reasons: She thinks parents should read to their children, and she speculates that if they do, the children will continue to enjoy reading on their own when they get older. "Books open a whole world in your lap, so to speak," Lubeck says. "And people who read are not only more interesting people, but more interested people." She's put that simple credo to the test by creating a bookstore that's as appealing to parents and teachers as it is to the kiddie constituency it targets.

Though the store's longevity is proof enough that the concept works, there's more than rhetoric supporting Lubeck's aim. Browsing at the Bookies is a delight, because you get the feeling that every book was purposefully placed on the shelf. Every title -- and there are thousands, shipped in from all over the world -- seems considered. No book here seems like a commodity, and that's entirely by design. "We get things people want -- not just what we think they should have," Lubeck says. "And most of our people are book people," she adds in praise of her service-minded staff. "They're readers. They read to their children, and they realize the importance of that."

Lubeck especially tries to service the teaching community, and does so by providing an incredible variety of resource materials on an endless rainbow of topics. Along with the city's best selection of children's board books, storybooks and novels for all ages, there are readers and activity books and flash cards, a global selection of language books, a large science nook, songbooks galore, multimedia aids and a wealth of research materials. Currently in the throes of expansion -- its second since moving to its current, already sprawling Glendale location -- the Bookies hopes to further assist educators by providing ample meeting space, something they've previously had to eke and sculpt out of existing display space.

That's good, because Lubeck needs all the space she can get for her exemplary stock. Her display of books about the Holocaust counts as one of the best we've seen in any bookstore, whether for children or adults, and the multicultural aisle is equal to none, spilling over with folk tales from Native America to the Far East. In addition to books aimed at adults, there are character toys, sweet French dolls, educational placemats, kid-appropriate birthday cards and, most of all, an inviting ambience that often keeps patrons in the store longer than they intended to stay.

"We try to keep it a happy place," Lubeck says, and that's one reason the bookseller seems unconcerned about turf wars between independent and chain bookstores -- or, for that matter, the proximity of any competitor at all. "We've been asked to open second stores," she adds. "But we want this one to be as good as it can be." -- Susan Froyd

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd

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