Beehive Books keeps the competition at bay with community-supported events

Linda Diamond and her husband, Joe, have been instrumental in renovating several buildings in downtown Delaware. However, they’re not content with simply making the area look better. They’re also interested in making downtown a vital and exciting business district.

In fact, Linda partnered with Mel Corroto to open Beehive Books there four years ago. You could say Corroto is a book business veteran, having worked in a used bookstore 20 years ago and managing a Borders bookstore for 10 years.

“They wanted to partner with me to bring an independent bookstore to Delaware,” says Corroto. “I love books and knew there was a market for a local bookstore since the closest big box bookstores were in northern Columbus 12 miles away.”

Beehive Books opened its doors in November 2007.

In our interview with Corroto, Delaware’s community is a common theme− what Beehive Books does to support it, why the store hosts events that rely on its participation, and how the owners are always looking to engage it.

The Metropreneur: How many books and periodicals do you offer?

Mel Corroto: We carry a large number of books and magazines −several thousand− and can order just about any book in print readily, usually within several days. We also carry greeting cards, journals, and lots of other gift items− from candy and book lights to bottle openers and athletic socks with our logo on them. We are increasingly carrying more locally made items, such as artwork and pottery from local artists, and Anthony Thomas candies and Sweet Thing jams, both made in the Columbus area.

[M]: The shop’s website says you often accommodate customers who can’t make it in during business hours. What made you decide to do that?

MC: To distinguish ourselves from other businesses that sell similar products. Our knowledge, service, and attention to products for which our local community is looking is what distinguishes our store from other stores that sell similar products. Doing these things, we have built a loyal customer base. We’ve made a commitment to be a presence in this community, so we are open seven days a week. But we realize that even with those hours, it may be difficult for some people to come in.

[M]: I imagine it’s a challenge to compete with chain bookstores. Your website asks, “Isn’t it better to buy a book from someone you know?” Is that another way you try to differentiate yourself from, say Barnes & Noble?

MC: Yes, absolutely. Being a small, locally-owned independent business, we connect directly with our community in many ways, including hundreds of in-kind donations to local non-profit groups, schools, and other organizations that help them raise money. We are able to connect with our customers directly through personal customer service and bringing in items that interest our community.

Tax revenue generated from our store stays in our local community as well. And we employ people from our community. We work hard along with other small independent businesses in downtown Delaware, as well as across the state and nation, to show the benefits of a strong local economy through shopping locally.

[M]: Is there anything else that you think helps you stand out from the competition?

MC: We bring in authors and events that have an interest to our local community, and host events that encourage thoughtful exchange of ideas in our community. One event in particular we had in January, February, and March of 2009 was our daily presidential speeches.

It was the year of President Obama’s inauguration and I thought it would be interesting to invite our community to read a speech or letter of each U.S. president, starting with George Washington, every day for 44 days. And that’s what we did. The interest from the community was overwhelming.

We had a different person read a different president every day for 44 days straight. From doctors and lawyers to teachers and school administrators, several students, local judges, historians, ministers, priests, 44 different people from our community participated and many more came to hear them. It was a fascinating continuum or our collective history from a personal perspective of those from our community. And we were able to recommend books related to all those presidents as well.

Last summer for the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book “To Kill a Mockingbird,” we did a similar thing where people from the community signed up to read the book aloud from beginning to end. It took us about 11 hours and we did it with a different reader from our community every 15 minutes. We love doing events like these that engage the community.

[M]: Those events sound amazing. Retailers are often busiest during the holiday season. Is that true for you?

MC: Yes, we especially depend on the increased sales during the holiday season. We have been very busy for this holiday season and hope the next two weeks will be strong for us.

[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?

MC: Shop local!

To learn more about Beehive Books, visit BeehiveAt25.com.