Cedar Rapids has been without a small, independent bookstore devoted to new titles for more than two decades, and Mary Ann Peters decided it was time for that to change.
“I felt that it was about time that Cedar Rapids had an independent bookstore again, and I have received just wonderful comments from people glad to see this open,” Peters said.
Peters opened New Bo Books on July 7 at 1105 Third St. SE in the New Bohemia neighborhood in downtown Cedar Rapids. The store is a division of Prairie Lights in Iowa City, and Mary Ann Peters said the concept of creating a partnership between an established independent bookstore and a new one is unique.
“This is a new concept for both of us,” she said. “It might be new across the country.”
The two stores will share inventory, meaning New Bo Books will be able to order editions through Prairie Lights and have them available “very quickly.” They also will share programming, such as visiting authors, readings, signings and other special appearances.
There will be cross-advertising, and guests might visit both stores to achieve a broader reach, Peters said.
“And they do a lot of business support for us,” she said. “They have been mentors to me in starting up this bookstore.”
New Bo Books is much smaller than Prairie Lights. It offers about 3,000 books in an 800-square-foot space to Prairie Lights’s three floors packed wall-to-wall with selections. Peters said her store offers a range of new books in genres from non-fiction to fantasy and classics to children’s titles.
“We are a distilled version of Prairie Lights,” said Peters, who is married to Chuck Peters, CEO of SourceMedia Group, parent company of The Gazette.
There appears to be sustained support for small, independent bookstores as they continue to pop up nationwide and here in Eastern Iowa. Iowa City’s iconic Prairie Lights, for example, has remained a staple in that downtown for 34 years.
The American Booksellers Association, a trade organization for independently owned bookstores, tallied a 7 percent growth in 2010 and gained 100 new members over a 6-month period in 2011, according to a report in the Washington Post. The association, according to the Post story, now has 1,830 member stores nationwide, up 400 since 2005.
Peters added that small bookstores have an appealing atmosphere and provide local knowledge and friendly customer service.
“This offers families a chance to share a smaller space and enjoy being in one room while looking at the kinds of books they want to look at,” she said. “It offers a difference from the great, big bookstores.”
Each of the store’s seven employees have a niche of expertise, be it in science fiction or fantasy or children’s books or poetry. Peters said she’s well versed in the classics and Iowa-focused publications.
“We cover quite a few books where we can easily be excited about recommending books,” Peters said.
The New Bohemia neighborhood, Peters said, seemed the perfect fit for her shop, with nearby coffee shops and a new market and entrepreneurs squatting nearby.
“It’s a place that’s going to be a gathering place,” she said. “That was the attraction for us.”
Owner: Mary Ann Peters
Company: New Bo Books
Address: 1105 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday.
Staff size: Peters and six other part-time employees
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