Shop counts on service to keep readers coming back
Beehive Books will celebrate its fifth birthday in November.
In the years since the Delaware bookstore opened at 25 N. Sandusky St., the space long occupied by the News Shop, it has hosted dozens of book-related programs, made available Wi-Fi, tables and comfortable red couches to its customers, and sold tickets to countless local events in addition to selling its own merchandise.
It has undergone a few growing pains, too, as 5-year-olds will.
Mel Corroto, who initially partnered with Linda Diamond to open the store in November 2007, left earlier this year to join the staff of Andrews House. Diamond filled the gap by hiring Richard Brulotte as manager.
Brulotte, who worked at Borders bookstore on Sawmill Road until its April 2011 closing, is no stranger to bookselling. He and the Diamonds -- Linda and her husband, Joe, own the Beehive building -- continue to offer books and more, because they know it's the "more" that makes a store successful.
Brulotte and the Diamonds talked to ThisWeek recently about the Beehive.
"We're good right now," Linda Diamond said. "We're excellent -- better than we've been in a long, long time."
Bookselling, which at the Beehive includes lots of special orders, works by local authors and a willingness to order titles even if the customer requesting them isn't sure about buying them, is just the beginning.
"This is truly a gathering spot for all different people in the community," Brulotte said.
The Beehive's cafe is expanding, Joe Diamond said. Baker Nicole Endicott's jalapeno cheese olive bread rolls and dark chocolate cherry chunk cookies -- "which are fantastic," Diamond said -- have been popular.
Diamond said he's in the process of switching to all loose-leaf tea for both hot drinks and iced tea.
"It's a trend that's coming. It's going to be a coffee and tea house," he said.
Brulotte pointed out some recent changes in the store's layout.
"Certain areas work better side by side," he said. Young-adult books were moved away from the sports section and closer to books for middle readers and children. Greeting cards are grouped in a couple of areas instead of being sprinkled around the store.
To manage what the Diamonds believe is one of the best greeting card selections in the city, Linda Diamond said she and her husband check out cards when they travel. They're always on the lookout for other items, too, such as scrimshaw pins that also have necklace hooks for two-way use. They found the pins in Michigan, the Diamonds said, and only later learned the makers of the resin-based jewelry live in Galena. ("No whales were killed" in the making of the jewelry, Brulotte added.)
The Diamonds said they try to find Ohio-made items to add to their inventory.
They mentioned travel candles made by a Marion woman and pointed to watercolors by local artist Mary Morrison and pottery by Peachblow Pottery's Gail Russell.
"The book market is a hard one. ... Amazon's predatory. We have to do things to provoke the loyalty," Joe Diamond said.
Staff knowledge is another asset, they said.
"I think customer service is a huge, huge plus for us," Linda Diamond said. "When you're in a small town, an independent store has to do all these things."
Special programs are welcome at the Beehive.
Art Nest Studio brings monthly social painting to the bookstore. Studio owner Kay Carroll distributes paints and a cardboard canvas to each participant, who can copy a painting she's provided or strike out entirely on their own. Either way, everybody leaves with a picture they've painted themselves. The cost is $25 per person. The evenings tend to sell out.
Joe Diamond, an artist in his own right, has taken part in the Art Nest classes.
"(Carroll) just runs around from table to table," offering instruction and suggestions, Diamond said. "I'm kind of blown away by it. It's a night out. No pressure."
An adult book club meets at the Beehive (the store wouldn't mind hosting more), and two knitting groups call it home.
Of course, the store sells all the concert, theater and what-have-you tickets for local nonprofit groups.
"We're Ticketmaster!" joked Linda Diamond.
They handle tickets at no charge, Joe added. "That's basically a community service."
Brulotte considered it a community service when he found a Kentucky Fried Chicken recipe for a customer who'd been looking for one. The customer, who didn't have access to the Internet, had searched in vain for the chicken recipe. Brulotte found it for her and tucked it into some books the customer had ordered.
"We are your full-service bookstore," Brulotte said. "You offer whatever service is needed by your clientele."
Joe Diamond said he designed the store to be a "third place" in the community. That's third place, as in home, work and Beehive.
"This has worked the way I intended it to," he said.
For more information, call Beehive Books at 740-363-2337 or visit beehiveat25.com.