Spellbound Children’s Bookshop
Spellbound Children’s Bookshop wants to share the magic.
Who hasn’t observed a youngster slowly opening a new book, mouth popping open and eyes growing wide, and thought to oneself, “The child is spellbound…” That’s the very reason Spellbound Children’s Bookshop has been in operation for more than a decade—to spark a sense of wonder, to cultivate a passion for reading. As the store’s website announces, “Our mission is to help raise lifelong readers who are curious, imaginative, and independent thinkers by sharing the magic found when you open a book.”
Celebrating its 12-year anniversary this month, the specialty bookstore currently located on merrimon avenue, was started in Asheville by Leslie Hawkins. She had graduated with a degree in psychology from UNC Asheville, but in her words, “Hands down, I had the most fun and felt the most engaged when working with kids—as a tutor, in a daycare setting, and in various volunteer roles. I’d also been what I call second banana in a couple of very small businesses, and I enjoyed the challenge of wearing many hats and feeling that I’d helped accomplish something. I tried to picture my ideal working environment and, being a lifelong bookworm, I came up with a bookshop that was dedicated to children.”
Now, one might presume children’s bookstores to be as commonplace as toy stores. Starting in the early ‘90s, however, with the rapid ascent of chain stores and, soon thereafter, Amazon.com, independent bookstores were rapidly becoming endangered species. To a degree, this remains true in 2016, although as it turns out, those bitten by the book bug early on typically grew up to become fierce supporters of retailers like Hawkins.
“Honestly,” she notes, “in a small independent business like this, especially in a sector that’s up against a mammoth, e-tailing giant, every year we’re in business and thriving feels like a milestone. We also made it through [the 2008 recession] thanks to a combination of loyal customers, creativity, adaptability, and perhaps a bit of luck. But people are spending again, and our inventory and community events have been expanding over the last couple of years.”
Hawkins adds that children’s specialty bookstores “are their own beautiful breed. Everyone who works in them is sincerely delighted by being around kids and, as we like to say here, the children’s section is the entire store. Some of my colleagues at other shops focus on younger children, but we are committed to the full range, from new babies to kids in their mid-to-late teens. In fact, you could say that the two ends of the spectrum have been our most active recently; in the last year we’ve added a monthly book club for teens, and just recently expanded our baby/toddler section to fill its own room in the shop.”
Spellbound also has a used/bargain book room that doubles as an event space that can be rented out for birthday parties, baby showers, etc. And the store is unique for its highly personalized monthly subscription program: Rather than mailing the same book to every member in a specific age range, the store’s staff makes individual selections based on interest surveys submitted by the members when they start their subscriptions.
Reflecting back on the past 12 years, Hawkins is proud of what she’s accomplished with Spellbound. “I found myself focused on a dream job that didn’t exist yet in Asheville,” she says. “So I set about creating it for myself.”
Find out more at www.spellboundbookshop.com
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