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January Dear Reader
Twenty-two years ago, 8 months pregnant with Edward, I gave birth to R.J. Julia Booksellers and one month later, my son Edward. These have been extraordinary years--filled with the joy of raising a child; the delight of developing a bookstore, the pleasure of working with hundreds of dedicated staff; with the honor of introducing thousands of writers to readers and the thrill of helping customers find just the right book. But ultimately, the most satisfying work has been to create a place that has become the center of our community and an environment that nourishes all that the joy of reading can bring to our lives.
Edward will graduate from Kenyon College in May and now belongs to the world--Kevin and I hope that we have raised him to be kind, compassionate, independent, thoughtful, hardworking, ready to be productive and make a difference. We think it's also time for R.J. Julia to grow in new ways, in the care of new hands that will guide the store to take its proper place in a new world; a changing of the guard in a time of change.
Rest assured: This is not an end for R.J. Julia, but simply a new beginning. The store will not close. We are determined to see R.J. Julia survive and thrive into the future. And there is good reason to think it can. The last few months have shown a resurgence of support and sales for independents across the country. There is even talk of this being the beginning of a renaissance for independent bookselling.
I concur with that thinking and believe that R.J. Julia and our community deserve to take advantage of this renaissance. To do this successfully, the store needs a new steward. Two venerable bookstores have seamlessly been transferred to new owners over the last couple of years--Politics & Prose in Washington, DC and Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, MA. The new owners are innovating, investing and reinventing--it is extraordinarily exciting to witness. I have spent many hours talking with the new and old owners and feel confident that we can accomplish as seamless a transfer at R.J. Julia.
So we will begin the process. I am committed to being patient in order to find the right person and to do this the right way. The first and foremost priority is putting this big, cherished baby we call R.J. Julia into the right hands. All that has been accomplished in these years is now part of R.J. Julia's DNA--all the staff have left their mark, all the authors have left their inspiration. And all conversations, joy, sadness and ideas that you have left-- it's all still here.
When we opened in 1990 independent booksellers were finishing a decade of prosperity and vibrancy. The next decade brought the onslaught of the chains opening hundreds of stores and the 800 pound gorilla, Amazon, began its ascent. Thousands of independent bookstores closed yet we remained vibrant and committed to our purpose. We were able to do this because of the staff who worked here over these years, because of the support of publishers and authors, and most of all because of all of you who have been loyal in your support of us and passionately committed to our existence. I believe words will continue to matter; reading, in whatever form, will remain vital; and our desire to connect will endure. These qualities have been and will continue to be the ingredients of R.J. Julia's future success.
What will I do next? Over these years my work at Read to Grow educated me about the dire condition of low literacy rates in our country and the devastating impact this has on our children and their families. I intend to commit my time to reversing this trend--no sense having bookstores if we are not developing readers--no sense fixing our education system if we are sending children in who are not equipped to learn. This feels like an ideal next step in my career. What can you do? Continue your enthusiastic and loyal support of R.J. Julia, and think about whether you or someone you know could be the ideal person to take R.J. Julia into the future.
Donna Paz Kaufman, founder of the Bookstore Training Group of Paz & Associates will handle the process for us. She is a highly respected educator, consultant and friend of independent bookselling who has known the store for years and knows the industry inside out. Donna, along with her husband and partner Mark Kaufman, will insure that we do this right--for our staff, our readers, our community and our industry. They are the ones to contact with questions, suggestions or interest in additional information, and can be reached at 904-277-2664 or by sending an email to DPaz@PazBookBiz.com.
We will have plenty of time to talk about all this, tell stories and remember our favorite author, event or book. But in the meantime, you have my personal commitment that I and the staff at R.J. Julia will do what we have done for 22 years--we will work hard to be a place where words matter, where writer meets reader and where we are committed to putting the right book in the right hand. All of you got us here, and all of us can ensure that this place called R.J. Julia will continue to thrive, enriching the lives of our community and our families with that indescribable joy of reading.
Yes, as always, see you in the store,