Isn’t there some song about finding what you’ve been looking for in your own backyard? Or something like that? Well, either way, as self-professed indie bookstore lovers we were thrilled to discover One More Page Books, a bright, cheery book shop just a short cruise around the beltway from us in Arlington, Va. As if that weren’t enough reason to make them our April Indie Bookseller of the Month, they also have an impressive wine collection. Need we say more? No, but we will…
Atticus Books: When did One More Page open and, more importantly, why?
Eileen McGervey: One More Page opened in January 2011 after almost two years of planning. My answer to “why” is a cliché–I love books. My first job was shelving books on a book mobile when I was in high school. I love to read, love to talk about books and decided that I wanted to focus on working with something I loved. Turns out I got to work with three things I enjoy–books, wine and chocolate.
AB: What kind of reading community is Arlington?
EM: I love the reading community here in Arlington and Falls Church. Folks are open to reading new books and genres. They listen to NPR, Jon Stewart, read book reviews in the NY Times and Washington Post and then come in to talk with us about the books. It’s not uncommon for us to be talking with one customer about a book and another customer joins in to comment or to suggest a related book. Our customers do not generally buy the bestsellers; they’re here to find something different. That gives us a lot of freedom in what we display.
AB: You all have one of the best wine collections we’ve seen in a bookstore. What’s the story there?
EM: The idea for the wine was to diversify our product lines (that’s my old life coming in here) and give people another reason to come into the store. It’s turned into something really fun for us and our customers. Our wine tastings give our customers a chance to visit with each other and with us. Carrying wine makes us different and it’s a great conversation starter. I can’t tell you how many people say–wow, my three favorite things in one place–books, wine and chocolate! We totally agree.
AB: Two weeks ago, you participated in the first World Book Night America. How was it?
EM: The buildup for WBN was great and our WBN reception was a lot of fun as we got to hear where our givers were planning to distribute books. In the weeks leading up to WBN, many customers asked about WBN after seeing the display in the store. Now that we and our customers know more about this amazing program, we are really looking forward to doing a lot more next year and encouraging our customers to become givers.
AB: One More Page hosts a variety of book clubs—who starts these? Are you a member of any?
EM: Wow, I think almost all of our books clubs were suggested by customers. I recruited Jenn Lawrence of Jenn’s Bookshelves to lead our first book group. The kids’ book group was started by two members of our staff. All the others were suggested by customers–Mystery/Suspense, Non-Fiction, Spiritual/Philosophy and our newest, a Daytime Fiction book group. For now, I lead the Spiritual/Philosophy book group and sometimes sit in on the Fiction and Mystery/Suspense book groups (I am a big mystery lover).
AB: What do you find is the most effective kind of community engagement?
EM: Saying “yes” as much as possible–to local authors, to working with the schools, fundraisers, store suggestions and supporting events that are important to our customers. Our store events and book clubs have been a wonderful way to engage with the community–they’re fun and give us all a chance to talk about books we’re interested in. That’s one of the things that’s really different about indie bookstores–we are constantly trying to bring a wide range of authors to our customers.
AB: The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction went unawarded this year, much to the disappointment of book lovers and book sellers everywhere. Between the finalists (Denis Johnson’s Trains Dreams, Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!, and David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King ) which would you pick?
EM: I freely admit that I am humbled multiple times a day when people ask me about a book and I confess I haven’t read it myself. I have to say the same thing about the 3 nominees for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. If I was going to read one, it would be Swamplandia! That did make it to my short list to read, just hasn’t made it to the top.
AB: What’s your favorite bookstore memory to date?
EM: We had a magical night with Sarah Pekkanen and Eleanor Brown. We had only been open a couple of months and we didn’t even know how fortunate we were to get the two of them together in one place. They had fun, our customers had fun and we had fun. There was much laughter, great stories and it showed us how much fun we could have (and how lucky we were). How could I want to do anything else?
Headshot from Paz & Associates
All other photos by Libby O’Neill