Tag Archives: community

JoBa Cafe: Embracing Change

This post was written by Ede Reynolds. To see her other posts, click here.

Downtown Waterbury is always in flux. Consequently, so are we at the John Bale Book Company. The current changes include the leaving of People’s Bank this summer. We’ll be losing many old friends (and customers) with this change. Recently, the morning paper announced Peter Abare-Brown will be leaving his post as Director of Human Resources for the city. Pete’s been a stalwart customer and close friend (and our de facto marketing director on the side). Yesterday, another old friend and customer from out of town stopped by after interviewing for a downtown job.

Change happens.

The retail profession is not for the timid. You have to love challenges and be a bit of a gambler to boot. So why do it?

For Dan and me it was to construct a way of life that we both enjoy. We wanted independence; we wanted to see if we could succeed in building something; and we wanted a quiet life with strong community ties. We have that and more. We have a network of friends we see everyday who share the good times and bad and who are as committed to having a good, friendly city.

On Wednesday, April 22, our bookstore café hosted the Feast, an international grassroots event that links participating communities across the world. Participants sit down to a meal and pose creative solutions to community challenges. It is a chance to do good, share the results with other communities and get ideas for ways to make your environment better. Local laundromat owner Paul Tillotson suggested we try it and Waterbury was accepted into the Feast network.

That same night the city was hosting an open meeting for the public to share ideas on how to improve downtown.

Being a local business, we can’t help but want to improve the city and its economy. It’s been a core of our mission. We don’t just sell books or coffee, we participate. The bookstore has been a wonderful vehicle for helping us find like-minded people who share this outlook.

Arri Sendzimier recently announced she was moving to Montana to live close to her family. She said she’d miss the “gang” at John Bale, of which she’s a member. And we will miss her. This past Mardi Gross she helped manage the crafts tent with the Brass City Charter School volunteers. My favorite photo of her is where she is walking around wearing a giant pumpkin costume. How can you not be happy to spend your days with people like that?

Flux, a challenge. We are meeting the current changes with new ideas like our Saturday afternoon lyceum programs. We host a high tea on that day as well. On Thursdays our great friend Marty Q performs live during lunch.

We crafted a life and found it to be good.

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JoBa Cafe: Rethinking Our Mission

This post was written by Ede Reynolds. To see her other posts, click here.

Bookstores used to be a place where you went to discover something new or something that would entertain you– much like a library except you got to pay for the book and keep it forever. That’s what it was like when we opened our doors 22 years ago. In the ensuing years the Internet changed all that. Now, much of what you read is online, and in the case of Google Books, it is for free. This has forced bookstores and libraries to rethink their purpose in the community.

Our company has more than 80,000 books listed for sale online, books that sit in boxes on shelves in a warehouse. When one sells, we retrieve it and ship it out to every part of the world (even Antarctica). But people still, on occasion, come into the store to buy books the old-fashioned way and that is why our first floor maintains a selection of general knowledge titles. For collectors and scholars, the second floor contains older, more specialized titles and bindings. And there is a third component, those things that sell at trade shows to serious collectors.

So, if most people buy books online, what is the role of the bookstore? Economic development people like bookstores because it hearkens to a more genteel time. Bookstores announce, “This is a literate town, one that appreciates learning”‘ But bookstores aren’t just “window dressing.” We have a role in the new computer-connected world.

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