We’d love to hear a little more about the history of your bookstore.
Frances McNamara bookstore series visits Stillwater Books in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, which carries over 500 titles by local authors.
Stillwater Books is owned by Steven & Dawn Porter. It opened here in downtown Pawtucket in March of 2018, on the banks of the Blackstone River, and across from historic Slater Mill -- birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and newest National Park. We are the city's first indie bookstore in over 30 years. Steven is an indie author, founder of the Association of Rhode Island Authors (ARIA) and is a thirty year veteran of the bookselling trade starting his career with the Lauriat's chain in the nineties. The store carries an interesting mix of new, remaindered and high-quality used books. But what really makes the store unique is that we carry over 500 titles written by local authors in every imaginable category. The store is also home to hybrid publisher Stillwater River Publications.
Do you have a mystery section, a local or New England section?
We have a very large Rhode Island interest section that includes titles from the RI Publications Society and dozens of local writers. Our mystery section is modest but includes an excellent mix of both national and local authors.
How would you describe your customers? What do they like to read?
Our customers have a diverse background. As an inner city bookstore, we see customers from all walks of life and different economic backgrounds. But they all seem to appreciate having a new bookstore in their community and like to take advantage of the bargains. Before Covid, we hosted an event, signing, workshop or other activity at least once per week. Our events had picked up a great following and attracted many new book buyers to our store.
How has the book selling business changed for you in the past few years? How are you operating during the pandemic?
On one hand, bookselling hasn't changed much in the past 50 years. Big box stores and online retailers have presented challenges, but it's still all about customer interaction and sharing our book knowledge with them. The pandemic has, however, forced our hand to improve and expand our online presence. Our entire inventory is currently available through our website and we are in the process of adding 20,000 additional titles in the coming months. Online shopping is not going away.
What are the greatest challenges or areas of growth you see in the future?
I believe bookselling will continue to become more locally-focused. You can always get a bestseller online or at a supercenter, but those bookstores who connect with their communities are those with long term goals are those that will survive. Booksellers are notoriously good at customer service and notoriously bad at being merchants. Those with the best business sense will survive the longest.
Many of our members are NE mystery authors. What advice do you have for them to reach readers?
There is no one answer. Readerships are fractured and can be found in brick and mortar stores, through email lists, social media, at events, and through friends and family. The most successful authors I know build their platforms on every level. And like bookstores, those who understand the business (not necessarily the best writers) are better poised to achieve their goals.
Support Local Bookstores. Purchase your next book from Stillwater Books.
175 Main Street, Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Do you have a special order or hard-to-find title? Call them at (401) 475-1979 or send an email to email@example.com and they'll do their best to track down a copy for you from their network of bookstores.
By Frances McNamara, Author of the Emily Cabot mysteries, https://francesmcnamara.com/