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B2B ID: Sam Burton, owner Grey Matter Books in Hadley

NAME: Sam Burton

JOB TITLE, COMPANY: Owner, Grey Matter Books, Hadley

WEBSITE: www.greymatterbookstore.com

AGE: 46

WHEN THE BUSINESS STARTED: Grey Matter started as an Internet business in 1995. I bucked the trend and opened a brick-and-mortar shop three years ago.

WHAT YOU DO: Drive around buying books, put most on the shelf, some on the Internet and others into storage, from whence they will likely never re-emerge. 

THE MARKET: Local book people and passers-through are now buying in the shop twice what the rest of the world buys online.

HOW YOU REACH OUT TO IT: I have a Facebook page, a website and a subscription with a mass-emailing company, which I almost never use because I’m too busy getting books off the floor. The highway department put up a sign for us on Route 9, and that has been better than all the electronic media combined.

WHAT FINANCING HURDLES HAVE YOU FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THEM? We have never had the capital we need, so it’s been a process of slowly growing the stock and improving the fixtures with cash on hand and small credit-card loans.

KEY TO SUCCESS: Putting fresh material on the shelves every day. 

CHALLENGES: I want to say, “Putting fresh material on the shelves every day,” but that isn’t really true. There have never been more books on the market. The challenge is harvesting the wheat and getting the chaff the heck out of the shop. It’s the only way to stay viable in an increasingly “post-book” culture. 

MISSTEP YOU LEARNED FROM: Picking an obscure location without knowing that Hadley forbids road signs more than 50 feet from your door.

WHAT OTHERS COULD LEARN FROM YOU: Enthusiasm for learning and re-learning. 

WHO HELPED MENTOR YOU PROFESSIONALLY? Most recently my blind quasi-partner Bob Willig, founder of Troubadour Books. 

TOP GOALS FOR 2012: Prove the Mayans wrong and make it to 2013. 

ADVICE FOR OTHERS SEEKING BUSINESS SUCCESS: You should probably pick something lighter than books. 

PARTING THOUGHT: But if you do have to sell books, the Valley is probably the best place in the country to do it.

B2B ID is compiled by Janice Beetle, owner of Beetle Press in Easthampton. Beetle Press offers writing, editing and graphic design services. www.beetlepress.com. To suggest a subject for B2B ID, email Beetle at beetlepress@charter.net.

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