Middle Georgia bookstore chain to expand nationally

cgrant@macon.comMarch 21, 2012 

Gottwals Books will begin selling bookstore locations all over the country, but despite the expansion, the home-grown culture and local service that has served Middle Georgia for years will stay the same, co-owner Shane Gott­wals said Wednesday.

The step is something the company’s owners have been considering for years.

“It’s a very expensive process,” Gottwals said. “We’ve taken these past two to three years seriously praying and seriously weighing the options ... (but) we know we cannot hold this concept back.”

The used bookstore company, which started with a Warner Robins location in 2007, has hired The Franchise Maker, a California-based firm to complete the national franchise process, and had received calls of interest Wednesday from other Georgia cities and from across the country, including Texas, he said.

Gottwals said franchising can generally cost upwards of $80,000, but did not disclose the actual cost for the bookstore’s deal.

“We reached a point where you can only go so far out from your home base and keep the company quality and keep offering out local friends and customers the same kind of service,” Gott­wals said.

Over the years, the Warner Robins location has tripled in size, and the company opened three additional stores in other Middle Georgia cities -- Byron in 2009, Macon in 2010 and Perry in June.

What started as a 1,500-square-foot shop with 10,000 used books grew into more than 16,000 square feet of retail space and more than 200,000 quality used books being offered six days a week, Gott­wals said.

The company has also been involved in opening locations in North Carolina, which was later moved to Perry, and Tennessee.

The Tennessee store, Cindy Lou’s Books, in Mount Juliet, has served as a pilot for the franchising program, Gottwals said.

“We wanted to see ‘Can somebody who does not have the last name Gottwals open and run a store just like Gott­wals,’” he said. “They’ve been open a year and a half now and have been doing great.”

Franchise clients will be able to purchase the full rights to their very own bookstore, with full consultation, trademark rights, and training that has brought success to the Gottwals family these past five years, a press release stated.

Other details are still being worked out, like what single name will go on the franchises as they pop up across the country. While the name will be similar to Gottwals Books, only the Middle Georgia locations will retain that name, Gottwals said.

He stressed that local customers can rest assured that nothing will change locally. The stores will keep the same management and remain privately held, he said.

Gottwals called the move a huge step for the company and Middle Georgia.

“You normally see (franchises) out of bigger cities, but we’ll have bookstores all over the country and be able to say our home base is in Warner Robins or Macon,” he said.

The company will celebrate its five-year anniversary from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. April 19 at the original store location, 1806 Russell Parkway, Warner Robins.

To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 256-9751.

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