Two years after its grand re-opening on Cedar Road in Cleveland Heights, Appletree Books will be wrapping up its second facelift. With a five-month long expansion slated for completion by October 14th, the bookstore will be nearly doubling its size, all in an effort by owners Lute and Lynn Quintrell to open its doors for more artists, authors and local non-profits.
And of course to stock more books.
Contrary to what some might believe, indie bookstores are not plummeting in scope. In actuality, they’re thriving. Scouring over 2,000 U.S. indies, the American Booksellers Association reported last year that sellers have seen a 27 percent growth since 2009. This year, sales are up 6.1 percent since January. The organization credits the increase to consumers’ penchant for localism. A fact that culminated this April with ABA’s Independent Bookstore Day, for which Appletree and other Cleveland sellers happily joined hands to promote in what Lute dubbed a “coopertition.”
And the Quintrells can back up claims of an indie renaissance.
Compared with their fall 2015 sales, Appletree boasts higher profits this September, especially at the start of holiday book-buying season. It was this January’s availability of the space next door—a former tanning salon—that inched the optimistic Quintrells to go ahead with expansion. With financial support from their landlord, who owns most of the Cedar-Fairmount property, the Quintrells chipped in around $10,000 to supply the additional space with shelving and furniture (most from garage or estate sales), along with a reading podium, a fresh coat of paint for a Children’s area and a fortifying steel beam, “so the second floor won’t collapse.”
Besides enabling more browsing room, Lute said that a larger store is appealing for publishers and authors interested in hosting readings or signings at Appletree, which is a bit too cozy for larger events. A bigger space, he said, could mean bigger names.
“Right now it’s awfully crowded when we get a good number of people,” Lute said, recalling when they hosted same-sex marriage activist James Obergefell in August after the release of Love Wins. “We had nearly 200 people at the Trinity Church downtown, as a result. I mean, we could have never hosted that at the store.”
Even with the aim of attracting more regulars, the couple is understandably nervous about the investment, considering the uncertainty of the market alongside increased rent and renovation costs. June’s opening of Amazon@Akron, the Seattle megalith’s in-person store at the University of Akron and slipping sales at Barnes & Noble, are a potential omen things could falter. For now, however, Lute’s hopeful.
“People say that if you expand and offer something attractive and inviting, then they’ll respond,” Lute said. “I suppose I’ll say it: ‘If you build it, they will come.’”