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Book Ends and the Unstoppable Judy Manzo
By Marian Stanley
Posted on 12/5/2019 8:19 AM

Maybe the best place to start in an introduction to Judy Manzo and the spirit of the Book Ends bookstore is to pick up on the comments she made after receiving one of the store’s awards - this one from Retailers Association of Massachusetts for excellence in community service.

“I have tried to create the quintessential corner bookstore where community, civility, and being good neighbors reign. All staff are encouraged to learn about community activities and organizations allowing us to foster a loyal customer base – where we greet them by name and have ongoing conversations about family and the issues of the day.

Thirty-one years ago, after decades of community service, including stints as an elected town meeting member and a leadership role at the Winchester Chamber of Commerce, Judy bought an 800 square used bookstore at the corner of Main and Mount Vernon Streets in Winchester Center. Her goal then was to create a destination bookstore and she has. Witness the store’s inclusion, along with other iconic booksellers, in the Metro Boston Bookstore Day tour.

The expanded 2500 square foot Book Ends is now an anchor store in Winchester Center with a deeply loyal customer base. This, as of course, didn’t just happen. It had the prodigious energy and innovation of Judy Manzo and her staff to propel it.

 

Book Ends has particular strengths that we see in the most successful independent bookstores that we have been writing about in this blog.

  • A Sense of Mission: These stores see themselves as an important community resource. Book Ends is a beehive of activity in author readings, community gatherings, children’s events. Judy’s community engagement has always been broad and deep. She naturally brings the groups of interest together – whether it’s co-sponsoring Parent to Parent events or support of school science clubs. It’s just what she does. An educator by training, Judy sees the bookselling business as satisfying and meaningful work with the kind of outreach and support she has been engaged in all her adult life.
  • A Great Staff: Each of these successful stores we’ve visited has a well-trained, book-loving staff. Retired teachers, writers, prodigious readers and, in the case of Book Ends, even a PhD scientist.All suggesting the best reads to their customers, organizing the inventory for best browsing and adjusting their booklists to changing reader tastes.
  • Endurance and Resilience. Thirty-one years is a long time for anyone to be in business, especially a bookstore. Every one of those years has presented challenges that required adjustment, innovation and change. And, goodness knows, this business can be tiring. Bookselling is not for the faint-hearted. But there is something that keeps these booksellers going – and thank goodness they do.

When the Women’s Multicultural Network of Winchester chose Judy as its honoree during a Women’s History Month a while ago, she made an interesting observation which might explain why such a large percentage of the successful independent bookstores we have visited are owned by women..

“Women have a track record of reinventing themselves – or being different people at different stages of their lives. Age is not an issue – but frequently leads to new ideas or interests. There is no formula, perfect time or place – just be mindful and open to life’s possibilities. You never know where your interests or passions will take you – take chances. Surround yourself with women who share your passion – Go Girl!”

As I finish this piece tonight, we are expecting a major snowstorm which may disrupt the festive Midnight Madness event in Winchester Center where the stores are open until midnight and there are gala activities up and down Main Street. Judy Manzo, of course, is a major driver and all in for the celebration. This year, once again, Book Ends is featuring for the event our own dazzling Hank Phillippi Ryan with her current book MURDER LIST as well as celebrity pastry chef Joanne Chang with her latest PASTRY LOVE. Hoping for the best and mercy from the storm gods!

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