Jerry Bilek, owner of Monkey See Monkey Read, downtown Northfield’s last remaining bookstore, hosted a reading to a packed house at the Northfield Arts Guild last night by author Mike Perry. Perry’s new book, Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs and Parenting, is out. Local author Tom Swift (right photo) was on hand to help with on-site book sales.
As previously announced in Jan., River City Books closed on Sunday. “Thank you for seven great years” says the sign on their door. Store manager Jon Lee blogged the death of the Raven last week and then blogged a photo of the last customer.
On Thursday, owner Patty Austvold put up a banner in the window of Bookfellows at 5th and Division that it’s closing at the end of May. It’s 20% off most everything in the store now.
I stopped in to visit with Jerry Bilek, owner of Monkey See Monkey Read. He’s already expanded his new book section with a much larger table. He blogged about the store’s new look last week with several photos.
Last week I met with St. Olaf grad Phong Nguyen about his new company, AhaDiscounts. He hosts local businesses’ promotional discounts on his website. People who carry his City Discount Card can then get year-round discounts at those businesses.
He’s currently running a promotion on the card through the end of March. Normally $10, people can get the card for free from any of the participating businesses listed on his web site. I got my card from bookstore blogger Jerry Bilek at Monkey See Monkey Read.
Local governments and independent non-profits can be resources for business owners in need of support, especially in today’s tougher economic times. In Northfield, however, not everyone agrees on what the government and non-profits should do in order to offer the most help to the most business owners. The Representative Journalism Project attempted to collect more information about the matter by issuing a survey in January to 60 business owners or managers from a variety of fields. (continued)
Myles Radtke, a student in Doug McGill’s journalism class at Carleton College, has done a nice piece on downtown retailers in the current economic climate, titled As Economy Sputters, Northfield Businesses Tighten Belts and Push Promotions (PDF – full text below). In particular, he’s interviewed a wide variety of local experts and allowed them to speak their own thoughts on the subject. I encourage you to read it.
It’s been a tough few months for many downtown businesses. First there were high gas prices cutting into families budgets, then there were the street projects complicating access, finally there was the Global Financial Contraction challenging the minds of the best and brightest.
As Radtke found out, local retailers are seeing some impacts on their customers. Pinched in the present and worried about the future, folks are being more careful about their money. Radtke reports that store owners have responded by cutting operating costs, working to build other income centers, and trying new promotions to get people into their stores.
Not all businesses are experiencing slowing sales. Some are holding steady and a few are even up slightly from last year. However, Radtke notes that even these business owners have contingency plans in place, such as a shift from luxury goods to more practical items.
Many local experts who spoke to Radtke believe that the media coverage of economic set-backs, a steady drumbeat featuring sub-prime mortgages in California, risky commercial loans in Iceland, and a store closing in Northfield can undermine consumer confidence. Feeding the pessimism, they warn, can extend the recession.
Radtke ends his piece on a positive note. Entrepreneurs, like the downtown business owners he interviewed, run on optimism. They’ll continue to make adjustments, and believe that economic conditions, and retail sales, will eventually improve.
Griff had suggested that I close the comments on this post and send them to my previous post on the Deep Economy. I’ve decided that I disagree. I hope that the comments on “Digging Deeper into the Local Economy” will focus on ideas for shifting some pieces of the economy from global to local in order to benefit the Northfield community.
For this piece, I’d like to explore the impact of the media on consumer confidence and economic conditions. Do you think the media’s stories on economic events have an impact on the economy?
Continue for the text of Myles’ article or see the PDF:
I’ve owned an Amazon Kindle (wireless reading device) for about six weeks now. It’s been out for almost a year but I waited to see if there was significant industry and user momentum behind it before I ordered one.
There’s lots to like about it. Among my favorites: reading in the bright sun; reading a book while eating — no hands required; highlighting and making notes that can be exported; free sample chapters of new books.
There are two other early morning coffee drinkers I see who’ve gotten a Kindle lately. Hey, that’s almost enough to start a NKUP (Northfield Kindle Users Group.) Anyone want to organize it?
We Kindle owners contend that we’re saving trees, of course. But are we undermining the local retail economy? Northfield’s Division St. has three bookstores: River City Books, Monkey See Monkey Read, and Bookfellows.
When roaming around for Crazy Daze this morning, I picked up a couple of books at Monkey See, Monkey Read and noticed the very cool bike proprietor Jerry Bilek had on the sidewalk.
No, he’s not going into the bike business; he’s going into humanitarian aid.
In his blog entry about the bike and the concept, Jerry says,
For every two bikes I sell, Kona will donate one to a home health worker in Africa as part of the BikeTown Africa program. This video explains the program better than I can.
This particular bike is a single-speed utilitarian model with “thorn-proof tires”. A three-speed model is also available. Go to Jerry’s blog to get to the tech specs of the bike; I just liked the idea that you can shop local and support an important humanitarian cause at the same time. Jerry, like many of our independent retailers here in Northfield, has a lot of interesting ideas.
Northfielder Tom Swift has a book out titled Chief Bender’s Burden: The Silent Struggle of a Baseball Star. He did a reading last night at Monkey See Monkey Read where he works part-time. Owner Jerry Bilek posted a review to his blog a couple weeks ago. Jerry said last night that the book is his best-selling ever, with the exception of the recent Harry Potter book.
Tom also works part-time at River City Books (see the Tom’s top-ten page there) where the book is the store’s current #1 bestseller. Tom did a book reading at the store last week, too, blogged by The Raven on the River City Books blog. (Full disclosure: I did some contract work for RCB to help launch the blog.) The Raven also blogged about the book on Northfield.org.
Northfield News managing editor Jaci Smith wrote an article a month ago about Tom’s book titled, Swift tells story of oft-forgotten pitcher. (Tom was editor of the Northfield News for a few years earlier this decade.)