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Lakewood Bookstore Plans Move

From left to right, Harrison, Shannon, Harper and Bob Lingle stand in front of their bookstore, Off The Beaten Path’s new location at 124 Chautauqua Ave. in the village of Lakewood. P-J Photo by Cameron Hurst

LAKEWOOD — Upon assuming ownership of Off The Beaten Path bookstore two years ago, Bob Lingle put together a five-year business plan.

“It was in ‘Year Six’ that I wanted to look into moving to a larger location,” Lingle said. “And we were able to do it in two-and-a-half years instead.”

Friday marked the bookstore’s last day at its longtime location at 28 Chautauqua Ave. in the village. But patrons of the bookstore won’t have to go far to find their favorite book or author at the store — the business will be moving just up the street to a new storefront at 124 Chautauqua Ave.

“That building is a larger space,” Lingle said of the new location. “In this new space, it offers us 250 more square feet and it’s one large room as compared to three small rooms. We can kind of shift things around. When we’re allowed to do more events again, we have the space to do them in the store.”

The move comes after seeing a growth in sales over the last two years, as well as timely planning ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This year, our sales are oddly up compared to last year,” Lingle said. “We did have a rough patch in being closed for two months, but we were able to transition well.”

That transition was aided by the implementation of a service called Bookshop, an online platform for which the store is able to merge its brick-and-mortar and web sales.

“It’s built for small bookstores,” he said. “We used to have a website that was based off our inventory, but our inventory is limited. Bookshop is pretty much whatever book you want, it’s available and we receive a commission off those sales.”

That platform launched right before the novel coronavirus forced bookstores like Off The Beaten Path to close.

“So that was an ideal time to get that website launched, get our sales directed over that way,” he said. “We were able to receive quite a few online sales through our closure.”

Lingle also found other ways to stay profitable during the pandemic, introducing the use of “curated collections,” in which interested customers are given a mystery box of books based on providing a sampling of titles they like and don’t like. He also encouraged customers to purchase gift cards ahead of the two-month shutdown that could be used once the store reopened.

“I ran the numbers and found what we needed to be financially viable,” Lingle said. “I set a number and encouraged people to buy gift cards as an investment in our business and people responded. Within two days we hit the target goal. I was hoping to get $1,500 in gift card sales and in two days we just surpassed it.”

And, since reopening, business has been booming.

“Normally November is our second highest sales month of the year,” Lingle said. “Closing out July, we’ve beaten our November sales from last year. We’re doing really well and our customers have been great.”

The book business also lends itself well to quarantine activities, he noted.

“It’s also the fact that there is a lack of entertainment,” he said. “People are either reading a book or watching TV. You can only watch so much of Netflix, so having this be one of the more leisurely activities certainly helped us.”

As an “optimist that can be pessimistic,” he’s grateful to have had a plan in place.

“We were able to weather the storm and still conduct business even though we weren’t here doing our normal business,” he said. “I like to have a plan to forge ahead, but I also like to have a plan for the worst-case scenario and you don’t have more of a worst-case scenario than running an independent book store in the middle of a pandemic.”

Some of his colleagues operating other independent book stores weren’t as lucky, he noted.

“It depended on how they reacted to the pandemic,” Lingle added. “The people who had a plan in place worked really hard. Some of their online sales were able to just keep their staff on and they were just filling online orders like crazy. Some stores that didn’t have an online presence had to make changes. There were stores that closed, but found new ownership.”

Now, in moving to their new location, Lingle is excited about the possibilities.

“I’ve been looking at the building that we’re moving into for months now because it has been vacant for a while,” he said, noting that it also has central air. “One of the longer-term goals was I didn’t want to move unless I had the opportunity to buy the building. That’s a longer-term conversation that we’ve started to have already. He’s excited that the person renting the building wants to buy the building.”

“I’m just excited to have a place we can do more with.”

Lingle anticipates that the new location will open on Monday, Aug. 10 and return to normal business hours — Monday and Tuesday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A grand re-opening ceremony will take place on Saturday, Aug. 29 which coincides with Independent Bookstore Day.

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