Labor Day Weekend 2022 marks the tenth anniversary of our Grand Opening, with a Taiko drum performance, sales, activities, and food
Firefly Bookstore has now been a part of the Kutztown Downtown for a decade, and business owners Rebecca Laincz and Matthew Williams are looking forward to showing the community their appreciation for supporting them over the years.
From September 2nd through the 5th, Firefly Bookstore celebrates their 10 year anniversary with a store-wide sale and other events.
On Saturday the 3rd, there will be an opening performance by KyoDaiko, a Taiko (Japanese Drum) group from Philadelphia, in front of the store. There will be other activities as well as food and drink inside from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. The store will be open as usual until 8 p.m.
“It’s been wonderful to be downtown,” says Williams. “We started in 2012 just down the block at 230 West Main with only 1200 square feet. In 5 years we had outgrown the space and were lucky enough to be able to move to Jackie & Daughter’s old space at 271 West Main.”
The business plan the partners had developed over the previous few years was based in part from their own experiences working in bookstores. “I have been working in bookstores most of my adult life, outside of school,” Laincz explains. “In fact, I was part of the opening team at the Wyomissing Borders back in the late 90’s.”
Williams’ experience in books was less varied than his partner, but included library work as well as graphic design and tech backgrounds. “We have some overlapping skills, but between us both we have a range of experiences that have really aided us in building this business.”
In December of 2016, they finalized the purchase of 271 West Main. In January, they started work on renovating the space. Williams remembers; “That was … challenging. To put it mildly. We did not have a huge budget, so a lot of work was done by ourselves and a few of our friends. We had to learn very quickly how to do this kind of building construction and repair.”
“We even had special events for ‘floor clearing’, ‘bookshelf building’ or ‘painting’ and asked for volunteers to help us. What was amazing is that people responded!” Williams exclaimed. “We were so grateful for everyone that was willing to put in their time to help get the store ready.”
Moving from 230 to 271 took a small army of volunteers to pack, move, and unpack each of the shelves. Again, the community rallied to support the business.
“We knew it was going to be a multi-day process to get the books and shelves and all the other furniture to the new space,” Laincz explained. “But in addition to ourselves and our employees, people came out in the March weather and helped with anything they could. It was fantastic and gratifying.”
In March of 2017, Firefly was able to open their doors on the new 3000 sq/ft space, adding over 50 new bookshelves, as well as dedicated workspaces for buying and shipping books. “It was so freeing to have the space to spread out again,” said Laincz. “So many things we wanted to do became possible.”
After opening the new space, Laincz and Williams started expanding the staff, and adding more events. In particular, the monthly Open Mic Night has become a haven for published and emerging writers to share their work and stories. “Overall, the events that we have had for local authors and writers have been pretty successful,” Laincz noted. “Having the space to do that properly has been critical.”
The challenges over the last ten years have been fairly typical for a new business; building a customer base, balancing cash flow, building a staff, and learning to take time off have all been parts of the first years in operation.
But as was the case with many other small businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 shutdown presented a special problem for the bookstore owners. Like many in their industry, they had to shift focus very quickly.
“We were able to pivot our business to online and curbside pickup relatively smoothly, although that required a lot more work,” Williams related. “With our employees furloughed, Rebecca and I were in the store 10-12 hours a day, 6 days a week. Everything took longer.”
“But we still consider ourselves very fortunate. Not every bookstore was able to do what we did and other downtown stores also got hit pretty hard from the shutdown.” Williams continued, “Again, the support and encouragement from our customers really helped get us through the worst of it. This community really cares about having a bookstore downtown, and we appreciate that.”
So what does the future hold for the store? Laincz discussed some of their plans.
“We see that our business will need to continue building our online presence. One takeaway from the pandemic is that a strong online business can provide a firm support for the business. But the foundation will still be the local community.”
Williams added, “A bookstore should be a dynamic space that evolves and changes with its customers. That means growing some sections and perhaps reducing others. For example we hope to continue to grow the game and puzzle section, add more space for children’s books, and more books for supporting health and wellbeing.” He continued, “We think that the demands for the future are going to need resources such as what Firefly can provide.”
Williams continued, “We have a space upstairs that we would like to finish so we can use it for expanding our events, create gallery space, and have room for special collections. It will take time to fully develop, but we have already started using the space for Book Club meetings.”
For Firefly, it’s not just about practical topics such as the environment, health, society or education. They also see the need for a bit of escape, an oasis for emotional and mental recovery. “Reading is good for us in so many ways. Games and puzzles too, can stimulate and energize, reconnect people, and help children build skills,” said Williams.
“A bookstore can support in more than one way. We can be a safe space, a comfortable environment, a place to find new stories and ideas,” suggested Laincz. “We can be a place to recharge so our customers can meet challenges in their lives.”
Summing up, Laincz said, “We’re really looking forward to the future of Firefly. We hope our customers are too.”
Firefly Bookstore is open daily from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. For the anniversary celebration on Labor Day weekend, the store will be open regular hours, opening early at 10 a.m. on Saturday the 3rd. For more information, please check their event page at www.fireflybookstore.com/event-calendar or contact the store at 484-648-2712