World Eye Bookshop closing store in Florence on Saturday

Last modified: Wednesday, September 03, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — After two years selling books on North Main Street in Florence, the World Eye Bookshop is closing Saturday, although its Greenfield store remains alive and well.

Jessica Mullins, owner of Greenfield’s World Eye Bookshop, in operation for more than 45 years in that town’s downtown center, opened a second store in Florence in space near the thriving Cup and Top Cafe in October 2012. She said Cup and Top owner Helen Kahn suggested she set up shop in the storefront next door.

Mullins said that seemed like a good idea because the cafe had done a survey which indicated Florence residents wanted another book store. Bookends sells used books, movies and music at 80 Maple St. in Florence.

In the end, though, Mullins said the foot traffic in Florence was not enough to make a go of it.

“Cup and Top asked us to come so we tried it and there’s no hard feelings,” said Mullins, 39, who lives in Vermont, and grew up in Greenfield. “I don’t regret trying it. I think it was worth a shot but there just wasn’t the base.”

She said she had been considering closing the store, and decided to do so when the lease came up for renewal in September.

“I’m sad because it was nice having the two locations,” she said.

Mullins said she felt she gave the shop enough time to determine whether it could be a viable endeavor, tracking sales and days of the week and seasons of the business cycle, but ultimately decided there just wasn’t enough business and it likely wouldn’t pick up.

“A lot of our sales are foot traffic and repeat customers,” she said. “I think in Florence there just isn’t enough foot traffic.”

She said her mother, Debran Brocklesby, was the main employee in the Florence store for about the past 10 months, so the closing will be hard on her, though she will take a different position in the Greenfield shop.

“She loved it. She made a lot of friends,” said Mullins.

Meanwhile, the Greenfield store, which employs seven full- and part-time staff, is thriving, she said.

“We’re a book store, we’re a gift shop, we’re a customer service store, and we are an anchor store in Greenfield,” she said. The store is open seven days a week.

She said while owning an independent bookshop is not easy, neither is it as dire as some make it out to be.

“I think publishing companies are doing amazing things right now to help independent bookstores,” she said. For example, she noted that some major publishers are offering credits to books stores to try out new titles with good displays, and will take them back if they don’t sell, to remove the fear of having too much inventory.

“That gives you a little bit of wiggle room and you can play the field,” in terms of book selection, she added.

Joanne Campbell, executive director of the Valley Community Development Corp., which owns the 1 North Main St. building that houses Cup and Top and World Eye on the first floor, said it has listed the property with Goggins Real Estate.

“We’re hoping to find a new tenant. We don’t have any prospects but hope to soon,” she said. “We hope someone finds this space in downtown Florence is right for them.”

Laurie Loisel can be reached at lloisel@gazettenet.com.