Sunday, April 6, 2008

Shelf Awareness Story

Last month I had a phone interview with Shannon McKenna from Shelf Awareness, an on-line newsletter that serves the book industry. I enjoyed our conversation, yet when I hung up I wasn't sure that I had made much sense. Anyway, when I went to my Google in-box on Thursday morning there was more mail than usual, and several were from publisher reps and other vendors. Since, I had not contacted any of these folks, yet - all were on my list of things to do and people to write - it seemed some calamitous event had occurred.

Sure enough, as I scrolled through the daily edition of Shelf Awareness, the following story caught my eye. Thanks Shannon, you did make some sense out of my babbling!

Future Store 2: Paragraphs on Padre Blvd.

Joni Montover won't open the doors of her South Padre Island, Tex., bookstore until the fall, but she's already garnering a following of readers--and potential customers--with the Paragraphs on Padre Blvd. blog. "It's a way to introduce myself to the community," said Montover. In addition to offering reading suggestions, commenting on local happenings and sharing publishing industry news, she's chronicling the creation of the store.

Not only will the newly-built edifice house the island's only bookstore, it will also be Montover's home. The u-shaped building will contain 1,700 square feet of retail space and a 1,400-sq.--ft. residence. The two parts will be connected by a storage room as well as a courtyard, which will be used for hosting store events. Combining business and home, explained Montover, made the venture more financially viable.

A long-time visitor to South Padre Island, Montover began several years ago to consider the idea of settling there permanently and opening a bookstore. The former CPA, who currently divides her time between Colorado and upstate New York, took early retirement from her job but envisions working for another decade--but only at a vocation she truly enjoys and one that will enable her to play a part in the island's community.

South Padre Island is home to 2,500 year-round residents. "Most of the people here are retired professionals with a fairly high educational level, and everybody I've talked to craves the idea of having a bookstore," she said. In addition, the island attracts one million visitors annually--retirees from the Midwest and elsewhere who winter there, followed by spring break crowds and beach-goers in the summer, the busiest season. "It fluctuates," said Montover. "Fall is the quietest season, but I hope there are enough full-timers to tide the business over."

The nearest bookstore is about 30 miles away on the University of Texas campus at Brownsville; Montover considers the local library and online retailers like Amazon her biggest competitors. Paragraphs on Padre Blvd. won't carry mass market titles or other books that can be purchased at a nearby Wal Mart, and instead the focus will be on literary fiction, current events, history, biography, classics and tomes by Texas authors.

Due to a growing environmental awareness movement on the island, which is home to a sea turtle rescue facility and a renowned bird-watching center, there will be a section devoted to nature and local interest travel. The store will also carry some used books, along with a small selection of collectible and antiquarian titles. Montover is planning to create a pre-opening survey to find out what residents are interested in reading, as well as to get an idea of their book-buying habits.

Montover intends to take up permanent residence on the island during the summer, and Paragraphs on Padre Blvd. is slated to open in September. Then South Padre Island residents will no longer have to go on treks in search of reading material. "Some people make a weekend of it and go to Austin and Houston and come back with a trunk full of books," said Montover. Instead they can browse the shelves of their neighborhood bookstore.--Shannon McKenna Schmidt

Joni Montover can be reached at or 303-358-4464.

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