CITY OF RESIDENCE: Warner Robins
OCCUPATION: Co-owner, Gottwals Books
QUESTION: Where did your used-bookstore idea come from?
ANSWER: My wife, Abbey, and I were sitting around with her parents and she was saying it was time for a career change. We were in Middle Georgia and she was working part-time in Forsyth and the ride and pay just wasnt worth it. We knew we eventually wanted to own our own business but didnt know what. The word bookstore came up. First, we thought about a Christian bookstore, then we considered a used bookstore with all genres.
QUESTION: What are your backgrounds?
ANSWER: She has a degree in business and I have one in English. I was teaching English and media studies at Central Fellowship Christian Academy. Our dream was that at least one of us could make a part-time income from the business, but it grew. I started work at the stores along with Abbey.
QUESTION: Grown is right. Youve gone from one to four stores in five years and are about to franchise others, right?
ANSWER: Not knowing what we were doing was our biggest obstacle starting out, but things have gone well. When we started it was at the beginning of the recession and considered a bad time to begin a business. Then when we expanded it was considered an even worse time to expand.
QUESTION: How many books you have?
ASNWER: Around 200,000. We say we started with 1,500 square feet and 10,000 used books and now we occupy 16,000 square feet with 200,000 books.
QUESTION: What are your days like?
ANSWER: We have a 5-month-old daughter named Millie now, and shes precious. Abbey gets to stay home full-time with her. Most of my days start about 5 a.m. and Im usually not done until around 9:00 every night. I stay busy with the four stores and franchising.
QUESTION: Does work cut into family time?
ANSWER: An advantage of working on the franchising is I work from our home office at least two days a week. I can have Millie by my side plus I devote evenings to family. Ill never get too busy to take the necessary time for my family, thats for sure.
QUESTION: Is there an author thats king of used book sales?
ANSWER: Probably James Patterson and Nora Roberts are at the top.
QUESTION: You grow in the face of online bookstores, e-book readers and a bad economy. What benefit do you think you bring?
ANSWER: We keep going with a community bookstore idea. We like to make it a place for gathering, for learning and for promoting literacy and local authors. We offer value. The books at Gotwalls Books are already drastically discounted and by bringing books in you get an additional 50 percent credit off that already discounted price. You have the opportunity to get 75 to 95 percent off the original price.
Everybody has books they dont want. We provide a place to bring them and get some pay-back, more than at a yard sale. And you cant trade physical books for credit on digital books anywhere. Im very optimistic about the future of the printed book
QUESTION: Do you have online aspirations?
ANSWER: Not at all. If we did big business on the Internet our local customers wouldnt get the cream of the crop of books they do now. It doesnt make sense to me to put a book online to sell to someone in Oregon when were trying to take care of our local community -- even if we lose a bit of money. Wed rather serve faithful customers locally.
QUESTION: You support a lot of local authors, dont you?
ANSWER: We dont really get anything from them selling books here; its all about promoting them and what they have to offer. Again, its a community and literacy thing. We get to expose the public to new authors and genres through their signing events here.
QUESTION: How about your staff size and economic impact?
ANSWER: Right now we have 10 employees, a small well-trained staff. I guess were an example of organic job creation. We had the idea, put it in motion and it grew so were able to hire and support local people. Its a blessing.
-- Michael W. Pannell